Envoys of the European Union member states in Dhaka on Wednesday said that they were concerned about the labour conditions in factories in Bangladesh.
They called upon the authorities to act immediately to ensure that all factories complied with international labour standards, including International Labour Organisation conventions.
They made the remarks at a press conference on the eve of the May 9 Europe Day at a city hotel.
‘As the European Union is Bangladesh’s largest trade partner, its representatives are concerned about the labour conditions, including health and safety provisions, in factories across the country,’ said EU ambassador William Hanna.
The envoys expressed sorrow over the loss of lives following the collapse of a building that housed five garment units at Savar on April 24. Rescuers recovered bodies of over 800 workers till Wednesday.
The EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and trade commissioner Karel de Gucht on April 30 in a statement warned that it would take trade action against Bangladesh through its generalised system of preferences that the country gets on the EU market if the country failed to ensure workers’ safety in factories.
When asked about the GSP issues, Hanna, however, said that the earlier EU statement had calls for Bangladeshi authorities to act immediately to ensure safety in factories.
‘The EU is willing and ready to assist Bangladesh in anyway it can to meet the required international standards [of factories],’ he said.
The EU is Bangladesh’s top trading partner, accounting around 60 per cent of the country’s exports and if it were outside the GSP, it would face normal import duties, which are 12 per cent for many clothing items.
The envoys appreciated the recent high level mission of the ILO to Dhaka when a tripartite agreement was signed to improve the safety and rights of the workers.
German ambassador Albrecht Conze said international buyers, rights groups, governments, ILO and GIZ were preparing a draft to address the challenges and ensure transparency in the production of apparel by controlling subcontracts and building structures.
Hanna appreciated record highest export from Bangladesh to EU in the past two years despite economic challenges in Europe but stressed trade is linked with human rights.
Italian ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino, Spanish ambassador Luis Tejada Chacon, British High Commissioner Robert Gibson, Danish charge d’ affaires Ms Lene Volkersen, Swedish charge d’ affaires Ms Karin Rohlin, Dutch charge d’ affaires Carel Richter and French charge d’ affaires Babou Kamichetty attended the press conference.
-With New Age input