US urges Bangladesh to align labour law with global standards

The United States has urged Bangladesh to align its domestic labour laws with international labour standards, in an effort to deepen bilateral trade relations.

The call was made in US President Joe Biden’s 2024 Trade Policy Agenda and 2023 Annual Report released on 1 March.

The report noted that the US Trade Representative (USTR), a federal agency responsible for developing and promoting US trade policy, engaged with the commerce ministry in Bangladesh with an emphasis on the importance of the Biden administration’s worker-centred trade policy.

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It further said both worker safety standards and worker rights have been issues of concern after Bangladesh’s eligibility for the generalised system of preferences (GSP) was terminated in 2013.

Despite the progress on worker safety standards in the last decade, the US continues to urge Bangladesh to align its domestic labour laws with international labour standards.

During the meeting of the United States–Bangladesh Trade and Investment Cooperation and Facilitation Agreement (TICFA) Council in September, 2023, the USTR and interagency partners highlighted growing concerns on worker rights in the areas of violence against and harassment of workers, unfair labour practices, freedom of association, collective bargaining, and the need for a fair and transparent minimum wage process for garment workers.

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The US called for Bangladesh to reform its labour laws to extend the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining to the export processing zones and special economic zones, and to ease the trade union registration requirements for workers.

Earlier, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) had urged the international buyers to increase their price so that the manufacturers can cope up with the increased wage for workers.