Boston, USA: Bangladesh has made significant progress in making sure that its garment industry achieves compliance with international standards.
It was stated by Dr. Mashiur Rahman, Prime Minister's Economic Adviser, while delivering the keynote address at the 3rd annual international conference on "Sustainable Models for the Bangladesh Apparel Industry" held on Saturday (September 24, 2016) at the Harvard University in Boston of the United States.
Dr. Mashiur Rahman said the remaining issues would be addressed in a timely manner in cooperation with the international partners.
He emphasized that the Bangladesh government takes the issues of worker rights and safety very seriously and will do everything necessary to ensure that the industry can achieve its potentials.
The day-long event was organized by the International Sustainable Development Institute (ISDI), in association with the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.
The conference provided a forum for an active discussion on the state of the Bangladesh garment sector. At this year's conference, the speakers and participants focused on exploring ways to build a sustainable model for the apparel Industry that is competitive while benefiting workers and stakeholders.
Exploring new market trends and consumer preferences, the conference participants discussed strategic approaches for major transformations of the industry in Bangladesh.
The conference participants included government representatives from Bangladesh, USA, Canada, The Netherlands and European Union as well as Bangladeshi garment manufacturers and exporters, international clothing retailers, international development organizations, United Nations agencies, workers' rights groups and international labor organizations.
Besides, researchers from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown University, Penn State University, Clark University, Tufts University, Bentley University, and University of Massachusetts presented their original research on the trends in global and Bangladeshi apparel industry attended the conference.
In order for Bangladesh to compete in the global market, the speakers emphasized that it is necessary to be cost-efficient while achieving compliance with heightened standards for worker health and safety.
The discussions were organized into four sessions: 1) Supply chain compliance and the need for fair price strategy and shared responsibility; 2) Trade policy, workers' rights and working condition-–opportunities and challenges; 3) Environmental sustainability development strategy: A necessity, not an option; and 4) Bangladesh apparel industry – roadmap to achieve $50 billion by 2021.
Amy McGann of the US State Department acknowledged that significant progress has been made in ensuring the safety and worker rights issues, but the United States government will reevaluate its GSP designation for Bangladesh once Bangladesh meets all the requirements.
Yevgeniya Savchenko of the World Bank expressed confidence that once Bangladesh makes progress on garment safety and develops a sustainable model for growth, it can easily take market share away from China.
Shawkat Aziz Russell, the BTMA Vice President and the Chairman of Amber Denim, offered a field-level view of the Bangladesh garment industry to the audience.
He shared that a significant majority of the old factories have upgraded their facilities to meet the compliance requirements.
"Even though challenges remain in terms of accessing resources, the rest are in the process of doing so," he pointed out.
Shawkat Aziz Russell also mentioned that what is even more heartening is that when new factories are built, they are enviable. They meet international standards of safety, they are green, and they provide safe and comfortable working conditions to the workers.
The speakers and participants engaged in lively discussion on the current state of the Bangladesh garment industry and provided recommendations on how to help take collaboration among the stakeholders to the next level.
They expressed confidence that the future for Bangladesh is indeed a bright one. Once progress is made on resolving the challenges of the industry, it will help Bangladesh realize its potential for economic development.
The event was organized, in collaboration with Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and United Commercial Bank Limited of Bangladesh.
The coordinator of the event was Iqbal Yousuf, executive director of ISDI and an IT professional at Harvard Medical School.