The United States and Bangladesh enjoy a robust and growing bilateral relationship based on shared interests and common goals. To further this partnership, the United States and Bangladesh launched the annual Partnership Dialogue in 2012.
United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque co-chaired the second iteration of the dialogue May 26-27 in Dhaka.
The Partnership Dialogue discussions covered a wide range of issues including trade and investment, development and governance, security, and regional cooperation. In a new addition to the dialogue discussions, a private sector forum with business leaders from both countries highlighted the value that business and people-to-people contacts could add to the overall bilateral relationship.
While in Dhaka, Under Secretary Sherman also led a roundtable with industry, civil society and government leaders to discuss ways to enhance safety standards and implementing them in the garment industry.
Bangladesh has begun the process to amend its labor law and make other long-sought changes.
The people of Bangladesh, along with the global garment industry, are still reeling from two deadly incidents in less than six months.
Last November, 112 workers died in a fire at a textile factory that manufactured shirts and jackets for international retailers. And on April 24th, the Rana Plaza building, which housed a number of textile factories, collapsed, killing 1,127 workers and injuring some 2,500 others. The factory collapse, so close on the heels of the November 2012 fire, shined a spotlight on weaknesses in the labor laws and safety practices in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has begun the process to amend its labor law and make other long-sought changes such as facilitating the registration of independent labor unions. As an example, it transferred the investigation into the 2012 murder of labor activist Aminul Islam to the Criminal Investigative Division, and has sought the extradition of suspects from neighboring countries.
The government is also participating in tripartite bodies, organized with the help of the International Labor Organization, to accelerate the inspection and remediation of fire and building safety issues in garment factories.
This is a good start, but more needs to be done. As Undersecretary Sherman said:
“This is the moment that the government in the lead, along with the business sector, labor and consumers, with support from the international community, can really make a difference and ensure that the very strong brand that is Bangladesh will continue for ever.”