WASHINGTON — Rep. Sander Levin (D., Mich.) said Friday he will travel to Bangladesh this week for a three-day visit to assess efforts on the ground to improve fire and building safety standards in the South Asian nation’s garment industry in the wake of two apparel factory tragedies that claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people.
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Levin will arrive in Dhaka on Monday and visit several apparel factories and meet with garment workers, business leaders and high-ranking government officials through Wednesday. His trip comes in the wake of a global outcry over the Tazreen Fashions fire last November that killed 112 garment workers and the Rana Plaza building collapse in April that has claimed the lives of 1,129 people and injured hundreds of others.
Levin has joined several House Democratic leaders over the past several months in pressuring the Bangladesh government to commit to a comprehensive, coordinated and concrete plan to ensure worker safety and improve workers’ rights in Bangladesh. He has also pressed U.S. brands and retailers to commit to the binding, five-year global Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, led by IndustriALL Global Union and 80 mainly European brands and retailers. Three U.S. companies have signed that accord.
A group of 17 North American retailers and brands, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Gap Inc., VF Corp. and Target Corp., unveiled their own Bangladesh fire and building safety plan in early July.
The U.S. suspended Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences on June 27, on the grounds that the Bangladesh government made “insufficient progress” in ensuring Bangladeshi workers internationally recognized worker rights. In mid-July the Obama administration provided Bangladesh with an action plan that it said could provide a basis for the President to consider the reinstatement of GSP trade benefits.