WRAPUP 5-EU considers trade action after Bangladesh factory collapse

Wed May 1, 2013 3:10pm EDT
 
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* EU considers action on Bangladesh, including trade preferences

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By Ruma Paul

DHAKA, May 1 (Reuters) - The European Union is considering trade action against Bangladesh, which has preferential access to EU markets for its garments, to pressure Dhaka to improve safety standards after a building collapse killed more than 400 factory workers.

Duty-free access offered by Western countries and low wages have helped turn Bangladesh's garment exports into a $19 billion a year industry, with 60 percent of clothes going to Europe.

Any action by the EU on Bangladesh's duty-free and quota-free access would require the agreement of all member states and could take more than a year to implement.

"The European Union calls upon the Bangladeshi authorities to act immediately to ensure that factories across the country comply with international labour standards...," the 27-nation bloc said in a statement issued by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht.

In the United States, prominent Democrats Sander Levin and George Miller wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to facilitate the development of a concrete plan of action to address the range of issues relating to working conditions and worker rights in the garment sector in Bangladesh.   Continued...