By  on March 28, 2013

WASHINGTON — Bangladesh government officials and the country’s main apparel organization faced a barrage of questions and scrutiny from U.S. government and labor officials on Thursday — the first time they have been publicly made to account for steps they are taking to crack down on rampant garment factory fires after two fatal blazes killed 118 workers and intensified calls to revoke the country’s trade benefits.

The tragic fires at Tazreen Fashion Ltd. that killed 111 garment workers in November, followed by another tragic fire at Smart Export Garment Ltd. that killed seven women in January, were a key focus of the hearing and have raised new concerns about Bangladesh’s human and workers’ rights record and placed its U.S. trade benefits in jeopardy. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office is reviewing whether to revoke or suspend duty-free trade benefits given to Bangladesh under the Generalized System of Preferences, a program that provides duty-free benefits for about 4,800 products from 131 designated countries.

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