Member of both the European Parliament (MEP) and South Asia Trade Monitoring Committee at the European Parliament Sajjad Karim has urged Bangladesh to deliver on its Sustainability Compact commitments or risk losing GSP status.
Karim was speaking to Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed during a meeting of the South Asia Trade Monitoring Committee within the European Parliament on Tuesday.
He voiced his concern that the Bangladesh government needs to make more progress on its compact obligations, according to a message received from his office on Wednesday.
Dr Karim also said graduation from the Everything but Arms (EBA) trade status to the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) was not to be taken for granted.
Tofail was part of a visiting delegation to Brussels for the 4th follow-up meeting of the Sustainability Compact.
Speaking in Brussels during the meeting, the British MEP said Bangladesh has seen tremendous development since the introduction of the Sustainability Compact in 2013, with annual growth being at 7% and continuing to climb still.
He said the country’s aim of graduating from a Least Developed Country to middle-income status by 2024 is an ambitious one, but achievable nonetheless.
“However, if this development is to continue to be assisted through its trade status, then Bangladesh must deliver on its commitments. Safety has certainly been improved, but now the question is the level of labour and social rights,” Dr Karim said.
He said the well-known shortages of the Labour Act need to be addressed to bring Bangladeshi legislation in to conformity with ILO standards and its practical implementation must be favourable to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
“Here, Bangladesh must show its commitment and a concrete roadmap on how to make progress. I’m convinced that further improvement in addressing these issues does not only meet a demand from the stakeholders of the Sustainability Compact - reflecting the demand by EU consumers for fair trade - but is also beneficial to the Bangladeshi people and the socio-economic development of their country,” Dr Karim said.
“If they wish to attain the GSP+ status, then they must deliver on their commitments.”
The caution by the British MEP follows an intervention earlier this year where he expressed his desire to see trade space created for the South Asian country in the wake of the Rohingya crisis Bangladesh is currently facing.
The Sustainability Compact was launched on 8 July 2013 following the tragic Rana Plaza Collapse, where over 1100 people died.
It was designed to promote continuous improvements in labour rights and factory safety in the Ready Made Garment (RMG) and Knitwear Industry in Bangladesh, bringing together the European Union, the Government of Bangladesh, the United States, Canada and the International Labour Organisation, accompanied by employers, trade unions and other key stakeholders.
The Compact is built on short- and long-term commitments related to three inter-linked pillars: respect for labour rights; structural integrity of buildings and occupational safety and health; and responsible business conduct.