Thursday, January 21, 2021 | ePaper

EU sounds GSP withdrawal warning

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Bangladesh is still at risk of losing the European Union's generalized scheme of preferences (GSP) as the latter has again warned about its readiness to launch the procedure for withdrawal of the facility in their market in case of failure to make sufficient progress on human rights and labour standards.
Earlier, the EU, the largest export destination for Bangladesh, has urged the government to improve the labour rights situation for the continuation of the duty-free trade facility. But this time, it has come up with another condition that Bangladesh must ensure human rights to remain eligible for the GSP facility.
According to a media report on Tuesday, quoting a EU letter sent to Bangladesh government on October 29, the availability of the GSP facility, given under the EBA (everything but arms) arrangement, depends on the protection of labour and human rights after 2023.
The EU suggested that the government formulate a time-bound action plan to address the human rights and labour standard issues, complying with the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. With the fulfillment of conditions, even if Bangladesh graduates to a developing country in 2024, this facility will continue till 2027.
Mentionable that more than half of Bangladesh's export goods go to the 28 EU countries every year through duty-free facilities. In 2019, Bangladesh's exports to Europe amounted to about €19 billion.
In the letter, the EU also mentioned the case of Cambodia, where the EU opened the process for a temporary GSP facility withdrawal in February last year. But  Bangladesh's case now hinges on the publication of an assessment report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).  
According to trade union experts, compared to the industrial and formal labour sector, the plight of the workers in the informal one is appalling. The workers here are deprived of even the most elementary safety arrangements while at work, not to speak of financial supports in cases of fatalities. Trade unions are an anathema to the informal sector. Payment depends on whims of the employers.
In such a situation, many otherwise skilled workers coerce themselves into hazardous jobs. Except on the days of different international observances, the informal workers remain unsung.
Therefore, the government should take the EU expectations seriously not merely for promoting exports to the EU countries but also for sustaining the country's credibility before the international community as well as to protect our workers interest.

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