Protect labour rights for sustainable growth of RMG: EU, US19 March 2023
Both the European Union and the United States have reiterated their calls to protect labour rights and the environment for the sustainability of the apparel business in Bangladesh. Sustainability has different aspects like environmental, supply chain, recycling and energy uses. US ambassador to Dhaka Peter Haas described the role of workers as one of the main driving forces in the sustainability of the garment sector.
In Bangladesh, export processing zones don't get the opportunity to exercise the freedom of association as well. An empowered workforce is directly related to sustainability. Sustainability and economic growth go hand in hand. Protection of the workers does not just mean the protection of them in terms of wage, safety and child care. EU ambassador Charles Whiteley suggested improving labour rights in order to obtain the trade benefit under the new EU Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). The bloc is finalising the new GSP rules to be effective from January for the next decade.
It is needed to intensify the rules of the EU, the government and civil society in a bid to ensure a smooth transition of the country as Bangladesh is yet to become a centre of excellence in terms of compliance. The EU wants the implementation of the National Action Plan to improve the labour standard and the country's garment sector to raise the use of renewable energy to 40 per cent by 2041. In 2002, Bangladesh's garment export to the EU was 3 billion euros and it reached 24 billion euros in 2022.
Fashion industry needs to reduce its carbon footprint and most of the emissions are coming from the production of garments. There is a pressing need for the use of more renewable energy in manufacturing hubs like Bangladesh. Textile waste recycling is also becoming increasingly important, and we see the need for policy support to scale up the recycling capability and capacity locally. Bangladesh is the champion in green garment factories as the country hosts 53 out of 100 top green apparel factories in the world. Economic diplomacy should get more priority in this era, however, we are still lagging behind such diplomatic relations with the EU and national interest is compromised.