WASHINGTON — The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association is set to sponsor the “Dhaka Apparel Summit” Dec. 7 to 9, as the global community keeps the spotlight on reform efforts in the country’s garment industry in the wake of two tragedies that claimed the lives of more than 1,240 workers.
The BGMEA is billing the summit as a stocktaking of a multi-stakeholder effort to improve safety in Bangladesh’s garment industry, as well as a roadmap for building and strengthening “responsible” supply chains.
It is being held more than two years after the fatal fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd. in November 2012 and one and a half years after the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013.
Since then, two separate groups of North American and European retailers and apparel brands, along with labor groups, nongovernmental organizations and the government of Bangladesh, have inspected hundreds of garment factories in Bangladesh and crafted remediation plans for the factories that produce their products. But they acknowledge that more work needs to be done to sustain their efforts in the long run.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to open the summit. Her government has come under fire from the Obama administration, which suspended U.S. trade preferences from Bangladesh nearly one and a half years ago because of the twin tragedies and the government’s failure to protect worker’s rights.
More than 50 speakers will be featured over the two days at the summit, ranging from apparel brands and retailers to labor officials and academics from Harvard and MIT.
Among those executives expected to speak and attend are: Wilma Wallace, deputy general counsel of Gap. Inc.; Ian Bailey, chief operation officer of Kmart Australia; Nate Herman, vice president of international trade at the American Apparel & Footwear Association; Harvard Law School Professor Arnold M. Zack; and Kihak Sung, chairman and chief executive officer of South Korean apparel-maker Youngone Corp.
A number of panel sessions have also been scheduled, featuring government officials from Bangladesh and other countries, international organizations, employers, worker representatives, civil society, brands, retailers, academia and the media.
Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of garments in the world, after China, and the $22 billion garment industry provides employment to almost 4 million workers in Bangladesh.
BGMEA officials said the two-day summit is also aimed at developing plans to overcoming challenges to reach the industry’s goal of $50 billion in readymade garment exports by 2021, the year that Bangladesh will celebrate the “golden jubilee” of its independence.