Despite the deadly Rana Plaza building collapse in April and widespread factory safety concerns, Bangladesh continues to churn out apparel shipments to the US in increasing numbers.
Apparel imports from Bangladesh are up 10.8 percent to one billion square meter equivalents (SME) over last year’s 935 million and have been rising steadily since May, according to recent reports from the US Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).
The country ranks third in apparel exports to the US after China and Vietnam and holds a 6.6 percent share of the US apparel import market, as of July 2013.
While the Rana Plaza collapse hasn’t slowed exports, it did increase concerns for industry safety, spurring the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety to work on developing new safety standards.
“This is an enormous challenge, but one well worth the time, effort and investment, as it will not only provide real change for the Bangladeshi workers, but this Alliance endeavor could serve as a global model for collaboration,” Ellen O’Kane Tauscher, Independent Chair of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety said in a statement.
Garment industry stakeholders met earlier this week to discuss plans for uniform safety measures at Bangladeshi factories, a meeting convened by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of Bangladesh.
According to an ILO press release, meeting participants agreed on the need for a standard approach to setting fire, electrical and building safety assessments in the garment industry.
Late last week, the Obama administration suspended Bangladesh’s ability to export certain products to the US, but these trade restrictions won’t affect apparel.
“Really, this is an advisement to the Bangladesh political system to do the right thing and to be more sensitive to worker safety,” Ira Neaman, president of Vantage Apparel told Advertising Specialty Institute.