Assistant US Trade Representative Mark Linscott sees a bright future for Bangladesh as he has lauded the commitment of local stakeholders for working toward economic prosperity.
He is the first trade representative visiting Dhaka after the Trump administration took office in Washington in January.
“I leave Dhaka with an even greater sense of excitement and optimism that Bangladesh’s best days are ahead,” he said, speaking at the concluding session of the third review of the ‘Sustainability Compact’ which was rolled out in 2013 after the Rana Plaza building collapse.
The Bangladesh government, the European Union where all Bangladeshi products get duty and quota-free access, the US, Canada and the ILO are the partners of the Compact.
Before the Compact review on Thursday, Linscott led the US side in the TICFA meeting with Bangladesh on Wednesday.
He said the commitment of the stakeholders he witnessed is “infectious”.
“It is clear from our discussions that all the government partners here share the vision of a prosperous Bangladesh where the benefits of the country’ economic growth are widely shared,” he said.
“Looking forward, we want to build on what has been achieved under the Compact so far.”
The Compact review ended with a “joint conclusions” that set some new priorities.
The trade representative said the “importance step will be putting forward a bill that ensures that the rights of workers inside the Export Processing Zones with respect to freedom of association and collective bargaining are at least as strong as those of workers elsewhere in Bangladesh”.
“We continue to view the protection of independent unions as a critical step that needs to be taken,” he said, adding that the US would remain as a “committed partner” of Bangladesh.
He also highlighted the contributions of the Alliance and the Accord for the efforts toward ensuring fire and building safety over the past few years.
US Ambassador Mercia Bernicat speaking at the meeting said the issues of worker safety and worker rights that “we discuss today are enshrined in Bangladesh law or international labor standards, standards to which Bangladesh has voluntarily committed”.
“We firmly believe that adhering to these standards is not just the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do. It ensures people can work safely and owners can increase their productivity”.
“But adhering to these standards will also put this country in a better position to improve its international competitiveness as well as to maintain and increase its market share in the worldwide garment industry,” she said.
Bernicat asked that the government, and the related stakeholders maintain “an open and constructive dialogue” with international partners, including the Accord and the Alliance, to explore how international support, including lessons learned and financial resources, can best continue in a mutually beneficial way for all stakeholders beyond 2018.
“We remain committed to working with our Bangladeshi partners to help ensure the safety and rights of Bangladeshi workers, especially but not exclusively those who produce garments and other products destined for our country, and look forward to a lively discussion this afternoon about the best ways we can continue our commitment together,” the ambassador said.