Implementation of GSP action plan makes little progress
GSP suspension comes into effect from tomorrowStaff Correspondent
Implementation of the action plan taken for retaining GSP status in the US market has made little progress despite the fact that the time of review hearing on reinstatement of the benefits for the Bangladeshi products is nearing.
The suspension of the generalised system of preferences benefits will come into effect from tomorrow. US president Barak Obama announced the suspension on June 27.
The office of the United States Trade Representative will arrange a review hearing on retention of GSP status for Bangladesh in December.
‘The government is implementing the action plan to retain GSP status, but it is not possible to say about the rate of its progress before November,’ labour secretary Mikail Shipar told reporters on Sunday after the meeting of the cabinet committee on the readymade garment sector.
‘But, we hope that we will be able to implement the action plan by December when the US government will arrange a hearing on the reinstatement of the GSP benefits for the Bangladeshi products,’ he said.
The fourth meeting of the committee presided over by the labour minister, Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju, was held at the labour ministry. The meeting reviewed the progress of the implementation of the action plan.
Officials said the ministry had made little headway in appointing 200 labour inspectors and inspecting RMG factories for ensuring fire and building safety — the two major conditions provided by the US government in order to revive GSP status.
Shipar said, ‘Hopefully, the government will start inspection of factories from September 15 with 30 teams consisting of experts from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.’
The appointment of 200 inspectors will be completed by December, he said adding that 23 inspectors had already been appointed and the ministry published advertisement for appointing 37 more inspectors.
Earlier on August 5, the inter-ministerial coordination committee on review of implementation of the action plan asked the labour ministry to complete the recruitment of 200 factory inspectors through special arrangement within two months by October 15.
Earlier on July 19, the US government set a 15-point plan of action for the Bangladesh government to implement to ensure labour rights and safety standards in factories in RMG and knitwear sectors, export processing zones and shrimp sector in order to retain GSP status.
From the effective date of the GSP suspension order, the USTR will monitor Bangladesh’s progress in implementing the action plan and review it in December whether the country could regain the trade privilege.
Before starting fire and building safety assessment, the government will set an inspection standard at a workshop on September 7 with International Labour Organisation where factory owners, worker leaders, Accord and Alliance — two international groups of buyers who will inspect around 1,750 factories — will attend, Shipar said.
‘We have only one condition that during inspection they will follow Bangladesh standard, not US or European standard,’ he said.
Currently there are around 4,000 RMG factories in the country. Accord and Alliance will assess safety issues in 1,750 factories and the government will inspect the remaining factories.
The labour secretary said it might not be possible to complete assessment of all the factories by December but the government would provide the US a better perception of the situation.
He said that a committee formed to formulate rules and regulations for implementation of the amended Labour Act was working in full swing.
The government has also taken an initiative to upgrade the Department of Chief Inspector of Factories and Establishments into a Directorate to facilitate appointment of 200 inspectors as in the current structure there is no post for 200 inspectors.
The process of upgradation is in the final stage as the proposal will be sent to the finance ministry in the next week for its approval after getting consent from the public administration ministry, he said.
Officials concerned said that the process of a creating database of all RMG factories mentioning compliance status saw a very little progress.
‘The government has already withdrawn cases against two labour leaders Kalpona Akter and Babul Akter and renewed registrations of two non-government organisations Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity and Social Activities for the Environment as per condition,’ Shipar said.
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