Obama to Suspend Trade Privileges With Bangladesh – NYTimes.com. From the New York Times, written by Steven Greenhouse, June 27, 2013.
The Obama administration on Thursday announced plans to suspend trade privileges for Bangladesh over concerns about safety problems and labor rights violations in that country’s garment industry.
The administration has come under intense pressure to suspend Bangladesh’s trade privileges after a factory building there collapsed in April, killing 1,129 workers, and after a factory fire killed 112 workers in November.
In a letter to Congress on Thursday, President Barack Obama said the United States would withdraw trade privileges to Bangladesh because it was “not taking steps to afford internationally recognized workers rights.”
Labor unions and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pressing the Obama administration to take this step. Bangladesh is allowed to export nearly 5,000 products duty-free to the United States, which purchases about 25% of the country’s $18 Billion in annual apparel exports.
Bangladesh is among more than 125 countries that receives such breaks on U.S. tariffs under a Generalized System of Preferences, a World Trade Organization program that is intended to promote economic growth around the globe.
In recent weeks, officials in the Labor Department have called for revoking Bangladesh’s special trade status, saying the United States needs to take strong action. Labor officials have asserted that the garment industry has been dragging its feet in improving safety and ending violations of workers’ right to form labor unions. At the same time, some State Department officials have pushed against suspending the trade privileges, saying it would damage diplomatic relations and undermine the economy of an already poor country.
At a hearing in March held by the trade representative’s office, a top official in Bangladesh’s Commerce Ministry said, “Compliance with rights, including labor rights, will necessarily be gradual,” in poor countries like Bangladesh.
The administration’s move comes in response to an official complaint that the AFL-CIO filed in 2007. The labor federation was upset about factory fires and a 2005 factory collapse in Bangladesh, as well as the extensive efforts by that country’s garment manufacturers to suppress labor unions.
Administration officials took that complaint with new seriousness after the Tazreen factory fire November and after the Rana Plaza factory building collapse two months ago in what was the most deadly accident in the history of the world’s apparel industry.
These articles are sometimes very interesting in that they lift the veil off the secrets that dwell in all of our outsourcing. The one thing I learned is that the garments made in Bangladesh are not given a preferred tax rate, they actually are not taxed at all. And then there are 124 other countries that don’t pay import taxes at all. No wonder American companies are leaving all the time. The U.S. actually is packing their bags and making them move.
Another item, which I find entirely hilarious is that there are people in the State Department who do not want to take action after two of the worst factory disasters in history. If you suspend Bangladesh, you can always “unsuspend” them when they make the recommended changes, right? But, I find their excuses so funny. They are afraid that it will undermine an already poor economy. These people at the State Department could give a rat’s ass about the economy in Bangladesh, they are worried that some of their Fat Cat friends and CEO’s might have to make other arrangements to produce their cheaply manufactured garments. And worried about diplomatic relations with the U.S? The people in Bangladesh blame the United States for running these labor camps. They feel that their own Bangladeshi people die, just so Americans can have cheap clothes. Bangladesh would have more respect for the United States if they make these garment companies do the right thing (that had been agreed to many years ago).
The World Trade Organization is sometimes a villain when it comes to outsourcing from the United States to other countries. The WTO is also another reason why the U.S. doesn’t do anything about the outsourcing, plus the fact that we don’t have any political movement within Washington, DC. But here are some of the major objections to the WTO: 1) WTO is run by the rich for the rich; 2) WTO is indifferent to the impact of free trade to workers’ rights, child labor, the environment and health; and 3) WTO lacks democratic accountability in that its hearing on trade disputes are closed to the public and the media.
It is absolutely the right decision to suspend Bangladesh’s preferred trade privilege status. The American companies, especially WalMart and the GAP, who were not making changes even after these terrible disasters. This is the only course of action that will change the constant state of neglect within Bangladesh. Also, maybe the United States should re-think being within the World Trade Organization. The U.S. needs to stop outsourcing and the hemorrhaging of jobs. The U.S. lost 2,053,000 jobs overseas in 2012.