On Tuesday, representatives of both the Bangladeshi government and an industry body for garment manufacturers and exporters will be lobbying members of the U.S. Congress. They will be looking to restore tariff benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences that have been suspended since last year by the Obama Administration. The benefits were suspended by the U.S. government shortly after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building left over 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers dead in a preventable factory disaster.
The Bangladeshi government and BGMEA will be meeting with several Democratic Congress members, including John Conyers, Sander Levin, Gary Peters, George Miller, and Mike Honda, and the staff members of others, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jerry Connolly, Sheila Jackson, and Keith Ellison. The parties will be discussing progress on a set of demands that the U.S. government has made of the Bangladeshi garment sector and the Bangladeshi government to improve safety and foster unionization.
A hasty return to better trade terms between Bangladesh and one of its main customers, the United States, would remove a substantial source of pressure currently pushing garment owners and the Bangladeshi government to allow improved working conditions and unionization. Such a step might also signal brands like Wal-Mart and Children’s Place that the U.S. government feels enough progress has been made to return to the status quo in trade terms when in fact much remains to be done on both building safety and worker rights in the Bangladeshi garment sector.
The meeting is being organized by a Bangladeshi diaspora group that seeks participation of the Bangladeshi community in the Democratic Party. Members of the media have also been invited.