Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) and Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) issued the following joint statement after the Obama administration announced that it will suspend Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade benefits for Bangladesh.
"Given the deteriorating conditions for worker rights in Bangladesh, President Obama's decision to suspend GSP trade benefits for Bangladesh is an appropriate and welcome step. While this suspension impacts less than 1 percent of the exports from Bangladesh to the United States -- notably the United States excludes garments from GSP -- this decision sends a strong message that Bangladesh must take serious and concrete action to improve the situation on the ground. We expect this decision will be viewed with interest by others considering similar action, such as the European Union.
"There is a path forward for Bangladesh to restore GSP benefits. Our hope is that this suspension will not be permanent. It has been taken at the same time that the U.S. and world community is committed to helping Bangladesh strengthen fire and buildings safety, and meet internationally recognized standards for labor rights, such as the right to form unions and bargain for more than the $38 per month minimum wage.
"Bangladesh must assure acceptable conditions at work, by enforcing its building and fire safety codes. It must afford workers the right to refuse to work in unsafe buildings, threatened by fire or collapse, without fear of blacklisting or loss of a paycheck. They must defend workers from employer retaliation and brutality if they try to register a union and collectively bargain. The government must end efforts to harass and frivolously prosecute those who try to help workers organize and exercise their rights. They must assure workers in Export Processing Zones have the same rights to freedom of association as those outside these zones. And, the government of Bangladesh must fully investigate and answer the question of who ordered the murder of Aminul Islam, a prominent worker's rights advocate. When Bangladesh begins to take these fundamental steps, we are confident the U.S. will restore GSP benefits."
The suspension of GSP for Bangladesh, in response to the AFL-CIO's longstanding petition, comes as many major U.S. retailers and fashion brands refuse to be part of an enforceable fire and building safety accord. Reps. Miller and Levin will continue to push these U.S. corporations to undertake fully enforceable commitments to sourcing from Bangladesh under conditions that ensure that workers have basic health and safety protections and the right to refuse to work factories that are unsafe.