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US Senators urge Obama to suspend Bangladesh GSP status
Jun '13
Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Angus King (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) urged President Obama to do all within his power to pressure Bangladesh to support safer working conditions.

The senators urged the Administration to suspend trade preferences for Bangladesh until it makes marked progress on efforts to ensure worker safety. Last month, more than 1,100 workers were killed, and hundreds of others permanently disabled, when the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed.

“It is essential to stop the ‘race to the bottom’ among clothing brands, hunting for the cheapest place to make clothing without regard to the cost in human life or the cost to American jobs,” Harkin said.

“Until workplaces in Bangladesh are safer, until their workers are making more than a pittance, until workers are able to effectively organize and speak out against fundamentally abusive work practices, then our government should not give trade preferences to any products from Bangladesh.”

“President Obama must do everything in his power to prevent tragedies like the Bangladesh factory collapse from happening again,” Brown said. “For several years, labor unions and workers’ rights groups have documented safety and workers’ rights violations in Bangladesh, which went unheeded.

"More than 1,100 lives could have been saved if the public and private sectors stepped up. It’s time our government takes a strong stand and works with the Bangladesh government and the private sector to prevent future tragedies.”

“Lax labor standards put workers at risk and perpetuate an uneven playing field making it difficult or impossible for American workers to compete as companies search the global labor market for the lowest bidder,” Casey said. “U.S. trade policy can’t turn a blind eye to these transgressions. With additional trade fights on the agenda, the Administration must set an example.”

“The Rana Plaza incident was tragic and avoidable. We must not stand by while workers labor in deadly conditions to feed their families,” Cardin said. “The U.S. market accounts for 30 percent of Bangladesh’s apparel exports, so we have a responsibility to act. After more than 23 years of pressure on Bangladesh to improve safety and workers’ rights with little progress, it is time for us to take more decisive steps until it can provide internationally recognized rights for its workers.”

“Bangladesh needs to improve its safety and labor standards, and it needs to uphold internationally-recognized worker rights,” Levin said. “The United States should consider these issues when determining Bangladesh’s continued eligibility for Generalized System of Preferences benefits.”

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