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Return of Western markets will promote workers rights: MGA
Sep '12
If Myanmar’s once-flourishing garment industry can regain its lost place in the Western markets, it would help in promotion of workers’ rights in the country, Myanmar Garment Association (MGA) has said. 
According to MGA Chairman Myint Soe, while the US and the EU were always concerned about ensuring workplace practices were up to the mark, Japan, Myanmar’s biggest export market post-sanctions, was only concerned about the product quality.
Being very vigilant about workers’ rights, US garment firms even carry out a probe into the working environment of factories before entering into a trade deal, Mr. Soe said.
Post US sanctions, Myanmarese garment firms tried to penetrate well in Japanese markets, which are very much stringent about quality of the products and do not accept any flaws, the MGA chief said. However, Japanese buyers are not concerned about the workers’ rights, he added.
The year 2000 was a fruitful one, with Myanmar’s garment industry exporting 54 percent of its production to the US and 37 percent to the EU. In 2001, garment exports from Myanmar touched a record US$ 829 million, while for 2011 these were recorded at just US$ 770 million, official data of MGA shows.
Before levy of US sanctions in 2003, over half of the Myanmarese garment exports were towards the US, which would order over 100,000 items of a single design, Mr. Soe said.
Post-sanctions, although the Japanese market claimed the largest share of Myanmar’s garment exports at US$ 183 million in 2010 and US$ 348 million in 2011, it does not have the potential of the West, Mr. Soe said. Japanese firms usually order only 3,000-4,000 items for a single design, he added.
He said the Myanmarese garment industry would try to regain the US market and also the GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) status from the EU, so as to avail low tariffs.
The EU offers reduced tariffs to developing countries through GSP, but Myanmar lost the status on account of poor track record of workers’ rights, especially forced labour.
However, Myanmar’s regaining the full membership of International Labour Organization on June 14 this year has paved way for resumption of the GSP status.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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