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Despite Its Problems Bangladesh To Retain Privileged Access to EU Market

Although safety and health problems persist in the Bangladeshi garment and textile manufacturing industries, the European Union agreed to let Bangladesh retain its privileged access to the EU market.

After meeting recently in Brussels Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and EU’s Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht issued a joint statement pledging to improve workers’ safety standards and urging foreign customers to continue doing business with Bangladesh.

“We pledge to safeguard “Everything but arms benefits” (EBA) through determined action to improve health and occupational safety standards in the export-oriented ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh,” the statement said.

The “Everything but arms benefits” allows certain under-developed countries to export its goods to EU markets duty-free and quota-free.

The statement and its promise of collaborative action to prevent a recurrence of the Bangladesh factory disasters comes in response to the Rana Plaza factory building collapse which killed 1,100 people, and previous fatal fires at Bangladeshi garment and textile factories.

A key passage of the joint statement said, “We express our resolve to approach a period of deep engagement for all actors involved in the global value chain — namely, global buyers, brands, governments and consumers — to work together in promoting a fair, ethical and responsible supply chain across the industry.”

Victims of the factory disasters and their families were not ignored, as both the Bangladesh and EU representatives together said, “We came together today and expressed our deepest sorrow to the families of hundreds of workers who lost their lives and others who sustained injuries in the recent tragedy of [the] factory collapse in Savar, Dhaka.”

The EU is the biggest importer of Bangladeshi apparel products, accounting for 60 percent of the country’s yearly production. According to the most recent available data, Bangladesh revenues for 2011 were US $19 billion.

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