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US extends helping hands to achieve $50b apparel export target


US Ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat visits Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association in Dhaka yesterday. Atiqul Islam, president of BGMEA, is also seen. Photo: BGMEA

The US will assist Bangladesh in achieving its $50 billion apparel export target by the end of 2021, US Ambassador in Bangladesh Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat said yesterday (5 March 2015).

With higher prospects, the Bangladesh government and garment exporters set a target to export apparel items worth $50 billion in the next seven years, at the first Dhaka Apparel Summit held in December last year.

Bangladesh that accounts for 5 percent of the $450 billion global garment trade will need at least 15 percent year-on-year growth in exports to reach the target.

“We will continue to work with BGMEA to help achieve the target,” Bernicat said at a press meet at the office of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), after a meeting with the association leaders.

“Good things have already taken place in Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza building collapse. More than 200 trade unions have been allowed in the factories, dangerous factories have been closed, new inspectors have been hired, remediation of the factories is underway and transparency has been established in the business,” Bernicat said.

“The most important thing I learnt about RMG is that Bangladesh is unparalleled anywhere in the world,” she said. Bangladesh has taken a serious challenge over tragic events and is showing the world how a proper response can be mobilised, she added.

“The garment sector clearly drives social change in Bangladesh. My government will help Bangladesh achieve the $50 billion export target, so that you can become the number one exporter in the world.” Bernicat, a newly appointed US diplomat, suggested further compliance in the sector to make the business sustainable.

“Of course, more needs to be done. The finalisation of rules of the amended labour law is important for the implementation of the law in the factories,” she said.

The government did not finalise the rules yet, although the labour law was amended in parliament in July 2013, allowing full freedom of association in the factories.

Highlighting the challenges the sector faces, Atiqul Islam, president of BGMEA, said, “We need a stable political environment to reach the export target.”

“The garment industry is the lifeline of the economy. The sector empowered women and Bangladesh is moving ahead.”

The number of factories housed in shared buildings has also been declining; 60 percent of garment factories are now housed in purpose-made buildings, he said.

“We are also relocating factories from Dhaka to other places, to increase workplace safety after the Rana Plaza building collapse.”

Islam said an appreciation of the local currency against the euro and greenback has posed a major challenge for Bangladesh, as exporters are losing money in the exchange process.

Another challenge is the rise in apparel exports from Pakistan to markets in the EU since January 2014, as the EU granted Pakistan the “GSP plus” status for 75 items, of which, 55 are garment items and similar to Bangladeshi products destined for the same markets, he said.

Higher bank interest rates and higher workers’ salaries are also some challenges for the sector, he added.

Bangladesh has to pay higher duty for exporting garments to the US market, Islam said.

Currently, the US is the single largest export destination for Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi exporters now pay 15.61 percent in duty to the US for the export of garments that account for 95 percent of total exports to the US.

In fiscal 2013-14, Bangladesh exported goods worth $5.59 billion to the US and imported products worth $801.10 million, up from $5.41 billion and $537.80 million respectively in the year before that, according to commerce ministry data.

Bangladeshi garment exporters paid $828 million as duty to US customs last year and $3.41 billion in the last five years, according to the commerce ministry.

China pays 3.08 percent in duty to the US for garment exports, while Vietnam pays 8.38 percent, India 2.29 percent, Turkey 3.57 percent and Indonesia 6.30 percent.

Source: Daily Star

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