Western retail giants restrict travel to Bangladesh after attacks
By Ruma Paul
DHAKA (Reuters) - Business executives from global clothing giants H&M HmB.St Inditex (ITX.MC: Quote) and Gap (GPS.N: Quote) have canceled trips to Dhaka this month after the killings of two foreigners, industry sources said, causing anxiety for Bangladesh's $25 billion garment export sector.
Bangladeshi suppliers to the world's top brands said they didn't expect the disruptions to hurt their orders for the year-end Christmas season.
But the attacks, claimed by the Islamic State, increase the pressure on an industry which faces competition from other low-wage countries and is trying to repair its safety image after several fatal accidents.
The United States and Canada have asked their diplomats to restrict their movements, and Britain warned of more attacks after an Italian aid worker and a Japanese man were shot dead a few days apart. Australia canceled a cricket tour.
Bangladesh's government, however, rejected the claim by the Islamic State and blamed the growing violence in the country on its domestic political opponents trying to show it in poor light. The attacks on foreigners, while rare, follow the killings of four Bangladeshi bloggers this year by machete-wielding assailants, and have spawned fear among the foreign community.
"Our Western buyers panicked after the killing of the two foreigners within five days. Some buyers canceled their visits during this peak time when they are supposed to place more orders," said Siddiqur Rahman, chief of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Shahidullah Azim, a garment exporter who supplies to Sears (SCC.TO: Quote), Loblaws L.TO and Perry Ellis PERY.O among others said one of his buyers asked him to come to Dubai instead, along with the clothing samples.
Other foreign business executives asked for video conferences with their Bangladeshi counterparts, saying they couldn't travel to Dhaka because of the warnings issued by their governments. Continued...