The European Union (EU) is looking closely at Bangladesh as the largest exporter among the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), said Rensje Teerink, Ambassador of the European Union to Bangladesh.
She said Dhaka has made commendable progress but it must do more to make sure that practices at its factories are in compliance with the ILO standards if Bangladesh wants to continue enjoying trade facilities being provided by the EU.
Teerink said more progress is needed and noted that the trade facilities provided by the EU has been a “major instrument” that has helped Bangladesh make the most out of it.
“Bangladesh has reaped about 70 percent trade facilitation of all goods that go into the European Union, mainly based on the readymade garments (RMG) sector,” she said.
Teerink was speaking at a symposium titled ‘EU and the Contemporary Global Scenario: A Reflection for the Future’ at a city hotel. Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Cosmos Group, arranged the symposium under its Distinguished Speaker Series.
Chairman of Cosmos Foundation Enayetullah Khan delivered the welcome speech opening the dialogue. Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, chaired the session.
“I think this has been enormously helpful. There’s no other organisation in the world that grants this kind of privilege to Bangladesh,” the EU Ambassador said, pointing out that it was not a blank cheque and that there were strings attached to the facilities.
She said the EU can welcome goods into the bloc when there is a respect of fundamental legal rights complying with ILO.
“This becomes more important for Bangladesh because it’s under scrutiny since it’s the biggest exporter of all LDCs. So naturally, people in the EU and manufacturers are looking closely at Bangladesh,” she said.
Bangladesh exports garment products worth billions of dollars to the EU every year.
The EU, she noted, “needs to have a guaranty that these are produced fairly respecting standards. “That’s why we’ve to make sure that this is compliant with ILO and our own standards.”
Teerink said the Rana Plaza collapse, the biggest industrial accident in Bangladesh, opened the eyes of European consumers. “This is why we created accord and alliance and the sustainability compact,” she noted, appreciating a number of commendable changes made by Bangladesh following the accident.
She said it is in Bangladesh’s interest to work with the EU to become compliant on these issues. “We’re doing this for Bangladesh ... there’re very good signals ... Bangladesh has responded to our request of roadmap. So, I think this all in good hands.”