The US is looking at the possible withdrawal, suspension or limitation of Bangladesh’s duty-free benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
While most textiles, apparel and footwear are not eligible for GSP duty-free treatment, the review is thought to have been prompted by the Tazreen Fashion factory fire in November, where more than 111 people lost their lives.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is seeking public comments on the move by January 31.
It specifically cites the grounds “that Bangladesh is not taking steps to afford to workers in Bangladesh internationally recognized worker rights.”
Pressure from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has led to hearings on the removal of GSP benefits for Bangladesh since 2007.
Garment exports to the US under GSP facility account for just 0.6% of Bangladesh’s total exports, according to Foreign Minister Dipu Moni.
“We’ll properly explain our position at an appropriate time. We want the continuation of the GSP facility,” she told reporters this week.
The minister also said the government is working to improve labour standards and ensure quality of the products that go to global markets, especially readymade garments.
The US has lifted a decade-long ban on most imports from Burma (also known as Myanmar), in a move that is likely to boost the country’s garment industry.
The easing of restrictions on November 16, is in response to reforms by the country’s military regime over the past year, and was made ahead of a historic visit by President Obama this week.
The import ban has been in place since 2003. Before the ban was introduced, garments made up the country’s largest exports to the US.
Burma has taken progressive steps over the past year to improve human rights and implement democratic reforms.
These steps have resulted in, among other things, the election of opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to the legislature.
In July, the US eased financial and investment sanctions against Burma, allowing the first new US investment in the Asian country for nearly 15 years.
Similarly, the European Union (EU) in April decided to suspend most of its trade and economic sanctions against the country.
And in September the European Commission took a step towards reinstating trade preferences for Burma with a plan to bring the country back under the so-called ‘Everything But Arms’ trade regime, which is part of the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
This would give products such as clothing duty- and quota-free access to the European market for the first time since 1997.
Financial and investment sanctions against the military regime in Burma have been eased by the US Obama administration, in response to reforms over the past year.
The enactment of the easing of the restrictions, announced in May this year, allows the first new US investment in the Asian country for nearly 15 years, and broadly authorizes the exportation of financial services to Burma.
The administration said: “The United States supports the Burmese Government’s ongoing reform efforts, and believes that the participation of US businesses in the Burmese economy will set a model for responsible investment and business operations as well as encourage further change, promote economic development, and contribute to the welfare of the Burmese people.”
The US also said that it would continue to support and monitor Burma’s progress, amid continuing concerns about the country’s record on human rights protection, corruption and the role of the military in the economy.
The new policy, it added, was designed to support democratic reform and reconciliation efforts, while helping to develop an economic and business environment that would benefit all Burma’s people.
Estimated cotton exports from the US for the 2011/12 season have been increased by about 200,000 bales, reflecting strong sales in recent months, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Its updated figures show 2012/13 ending stocks unchanged from last month, with production also the same at about 17m bales, pending further information about planted areas and weather.
However, exports for 2012/13 are cut by 200,000 bales, thanks to lower expected foreign demand over the next year.
World production estimates for 2012/13 are reduced by 1.4m bales, thanks to anticipated cuts in production areas in Brazil, Australia and Argentina – a response to fast-falling prices.
World consumption is also reduced by about 1m bales, with decreases for China and Thailand partially offset by an increase for India.
“With world prices falling, China’s reserve floor price will make it increasingly difficult for mills there to be competitive producers of yarn,” the USDA report warns.
Meanwhile, for 2011/12, there an increase of nearly 1.8m bales to China’s imports, thanks to the continued strong pace of deliveries, and corresponding increases in exports for India, Brazil, Australia, the US and Malaysia.