The European Union said on Tuesday it was concerned about working conditions in Bangladesh and is considering action to press the country to improve its labour practices after more than 400 people were killed in a building collapse near Dhaka.
In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said the bloc was considering “appropriate” measures to restrict trade access to the European single market.
This includes “the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) – through which Bangladesh currently receives duty-free and quote-free access to the EU market under the ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme – in order to incentivise responsible management for supply chains involving developing countries,” the statement said.
EU officials claimed suspending Bangladesh from the bloc’s preferences scheme – which allows the country’s textile industry to export to the EU free of import duties – would be an extreme measure. But the European Commission decided to consider suspension after previous warnings about working conditions were ignored, reports the Financial Times.
A two-judge panel of the High Court also asked the central bank to freeze the assets of the owners of the five garment factories, including several Western retailers, in the building and use the money to compensate for the victims and their families, according to Al Jazeera. The order came after Sohel Rana, the owner of the building, and factory owners, appeared in court.