TIB concerned over initiative to review Bangladeshi garments access to US market under GSP;
Calls for playing their own role in ensuring ethical business
Dhaka, 22 December, 2012. Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) expressed deep concern over the reported initiative by a section of the US lawmakers to review the status of access of Bangladeshi garments to the US market under Generalized System of Preference (GSP) in the wake of Tazreen factory fire, and called upon the US authorities to act in a responsible manner and refrain from actions that may adversely affect the industry, and further victimize the workers.
According to reports in Bangladeshi and international media, reacting to the Tazreen factory fire a group of twelve lawmakers asked the US Trade Representative’s Office to accelerate review whether Bangladesh should remain part of the GSP.
In a statement Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of TIB said, “responsibility for the tragedy indeed lies here on weak law enforcement, corruption and a desperate game of making quick money. Everyone responsible must be brought to justice to prevent such tragedies in the future and ensure higher safety standards. However, nothing in the wake of such tragedies can justify any measure that could restrict access of Bangladeshi products to the US market. This will mean chopping off the head for headache, and lead to punishing the garment workers for no fault of them, over 85 percent of whom are women”.
“While we are equally concerned about the deteriorating working conditions, we call upon the US law-makers and the Government, particularly US Trade Representative’s Office to refrain from any shortsighted, irresponsible and cowardly course”, he said.
Iftekhar further said “we are particularly disappointed as the move comes reportedly because the law-makers are concerned about workers’ rights. We suspect that such a stance can bring self-contradictory results. Instead of any negative course we call upon them to rather incentivise US buyers including Government and commercial contractors to promote more business while packaging deals as co-stakeholders in a manner that ensures highest safety standards and welfare of workers”.
“The lesson of Tanzreen fire is not to scare business and investment away from Bangladesh, but to underscore the importance of conducting business with responsibility and integrity’ he said.
“On the other hand, we are encouraged that some US citizens in places like South Carolina have taken a more sensible approach and called for US buyers to compensate the families of the victims of the Tazreen fire and conduct more ethical business”, he further said.
The US cannot shy away from their own role to ensure stricter compliance to safety standards in factories they conduct business with. Playing safe and rapidly dumping business when tragedies occur are cowardly, the statement said.
“Profit from cheap garments comes at a cost which the US and for that matter other buyers and Governments of the developed world have to share, if they want us to be convinced that they practice what they preach”, Iftekhar said.