The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Atiqul Islam said in Dhaka on Monday: “We’ve had a good meeting with her. We’re hopeful of getting good news about the GSP.”
He said Biswal had welcomed the hike in minimum wage of ready-made garment factory workers. Atiqul said both sides agreed to work together for Bangladesh’s development.
After the meeting, Biswal said the USA welcomed the opportunity to work together with Bangladesh for its development.
She felt there were ‘important’ opportunities for garment industry owners and workers, civil society and the international community to continue Bangladesh’s progress by improving working conditions.
Biswal said she had ‘very fruitful, nice and open’ discussions with the apparel industry leaders.
The BGMEA President said that apart from requesting Biswal to withdraw the suspension of GSP (Generalised System of Preference) facilities, they sought duty-free access of Bangladeshi readymade garments to the US market.
The BGMEA also voiced its concern over the wave of labour unrest despite the owners agreeing to accept the wage hike proposed by the government-constituted wage board.
An influential rights group, American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) appealed in October last year for revoking Bangladesh's GSP facilities arguing that workers’ rights were not being protected in readymade garment, fish processing industries, and in export processing zones.
In one month of their appeal, at least 110 workers died in a devastating fire at Tazreen Fashions factory in Ashulia inviting international hue and cry about the workers’ safety issue.
Amid a review of the GSP facilities asked by US President Barak Obama, Rana Plaza at Savar that housed six garment factories collapsed, killing at least 1,130 people, mostly workers.
Later in the middle of this year, Obama suspended the facilities.
Under GSP, Bangladesh used to enjoy duty-free access of around 5,000 products to the US market though they did not include its main export item, readymade garments.
Biswal, who arrived in Dhaka on Saturday on a three-day official visit, also met the International Labour Organisation and American Solidarity Center representatives.
She met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia on Sunday night.
Biswal will meet Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque. She will also meet other political leaders, government officials, workers’ leaders and civil society leaders before leaving Dhaka.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)
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