The United States announced Thursday it was suspending key trade privileges for Bangladesh, citing intensified concerns over labor rights and working conditions in the country after hundreds of people were killed in a factory building collapse.
President Barack Obama said it was removing Bangladesh’s duty-free trade privileges under the Generalized Preference System (GSP) program.
The suspension is aimed at increasing pressure on Dhaka to boost workplace safety, especially in the garment industry.
“I have determined… that it is appropriate to suspend Bangladesh’s designation as a GSP beneficiary developing country because it had not taken or is not taking steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights to workers in the country,” Obama said.
US Trade Representative Mike Froman said Washington will, however, start new discussions with Bangladesh on improving workers’ conditions so the duty-free benefits can be restored, The Associated Press reports.
The recent tragedies “have served to highlight some of the serious shortcomings in worker rights and workplace safety standards in Bangladesh,” Froman said in a statement.
Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry called the suspension “harsh” and insisted it was taking concrete actions to improve factory safety.
The GSP, which eliminates duties on imports from developing nations to boost their economies, covers less than 1% of Bangladesh’s nearly $5 billion in exports to the US, according to AP.