US Ends Trade Privileges to Bangladesh Following Garment Factory Disasters

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that the US will end trade privileges with Bangladesh over concerns for safety and working conditions in factories.

The US will suspend Bangladesh from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which will increase tariffs on certain goods. The move, in response to recent garment factory disasters, will not directly affect the garment industry because they were not eligible for duty cuts under GSP.

The collapse of a Rana Plaza garment factory outside Dhaka on April 24 left over 1,100 people dead. A factory fire in November 2012 killed over 100 people.

Read on at PRI’s The World.

24 companies sign on to major safety agreement for Bangladesh clothing factories

Twnety-four major clothing retailers have now committed to a safety accord for garment factories in Bangladesh.

More than 1,100 garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed outside of Dhaka last month and hundreds of factories were closed Monday across Bangladesh amid workers’ unrest over safety concerns.

H&M, Inditex, C&A, Primark, and Tesco agreed to the accord on Monday. Seven other companies, including Benetton and Mango, joined on Tuesday, while more followed suit by Wednesday. The agreement includes measures such as independent safety inspections and public reports, an increased role for workers and unions, and funding for repairs and renovations, according to the IndustriALL and UNI Global Unions that initiated the accord.

US company PVH (which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and German retailer Tchibo agreed to sign the accord last year. Other US retailers such as Walmart and Gap, have not signed the agreement. Walmart is making a “solo effort” while Gap has maintained that it cannot be part of a legally-binding accord.

The deadline for companies to join the accord is the end of the day on May 15.

News of the agreement broke during a day-long chat about the garment industry hosted by The World on Facebook yesterday. The developments prompted questions during the chat about what moves large, international clothing companies to take action and how consumers can affect change in the industry.

Read more about the chat and the post I wrote yesterday.

My $10 T-Shirt: A Conversation about Ethical Fashion

The death toll of the April 24 collapse of a garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, has passed 1,000 people, making it the worst industrial accident since the 1984 gas leak at a Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal. The Rana Plaza complex collapsed just one day after an engineer declared it unsafe.

Britain’s Primark and Canadian company Loblaw, have admitted that their clothing was manufactured at Rana Plaza and offered to compensate victims of the disaster.

One question on my mind this week has been: Is it possible that the T-shirt I bought yesterday was made by one of the workers killed in that factory?

It is a disconcerting thought for a shopper’s conscience. But figuring out what we as consumers can do to help workers in the garment industry is not an easy task.

Join us Monday on Facebook for a day-long chat about how we might be able to shop more responsibly for our clothes. Click here to RSVP and post your comments and questions to the wall.

Read mor at PRI’s The World.