WASHINGTON—The American Apparel & Footwear Association has postponed until next year an international product and worker safety conference in Dhaka Bangladesh, due to concerns related to warnings issued by the U.S. State Department of violence and threats against foreigners.
Bangladesh posted another substantial increase in U.S. apparel and textile imports in October, a Commerce Department report showed Friday, but executives are keeping close watch on recent violence in the country that could potentially impact future orders and trade.
The AAFA was forced to postpone its “International Product Safety, Worker Safety and Supply Chain Compliance Conference” slated for Tuesday in Dhaka because of the security concerns.
The apparel and footwear association pointed to a travel advisory issued by the State Department at the end of October, warning American citizens traveling there to take precautions and remain vigilant after a bombing there, in which the terrorist group ISIL (also commonly referred to as ISIS) claimed responsibility. The terrorist group was behind the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris in late November.
In addition, there have been numerous threats made against foreigners in Bangladesh. U.S. government personnel and their families are not permitted to be in most public places and restricted from attending large public gatherings in Bangladesh, including events at international hotels, according to the advisory issued by the U.S. embassy in Bangladesh.
Nate Herman, vice president of international trade at the AAFA, said the security concerns are related primarily to people being able to travel to Bangladesh.
“Based on the State Department’s travel advisory and the fact that people are restricted from attending large gatherings, we did not think it was prudent at this time to hold the conference and so we postponed it with plans to go back as soon as we can in 2016,” Herman said.
“We haven’t heard that people are cancelling orders or delaying orders,” he added.
He noted that many large companies that do a significant amount of sourcing in Bangladesh have their own offices on the ground there and can continue business from there.
“The security situation there is dire right now,” said Julia Hughes, president at the U.S. Fashion Industry Association. “Will that play out in trade numbers in 2016? It’s too early to know.”
Hughes said people have expressed concerns because there have been several reports of murders in Bangladesh and there is uncertainty over whether terrorists were responsible or are targeting foreigners. She said she has not heard that companies are pulling their business from Bangladesh but some are “holding off on travel to Bangladesh at this time.”
“If you look six, nine or 10 months out, there might be an impact, because some companies are not allowing travel to Bangladesh,” she said.
Friday’s monthly trade data showed apparel and textile imports from Bangladesh, which has been undergoing safety and labor reforms in the wake of industrial tragedies that claimed the lives of more than 1,200 workers, rose 37.7 percent to 197 million square meter equivalents in October compared with a year earlier.
Any decline in imports from Bangladesh would not show up in U.S. trade data for several months.
“Back when these orders were placed last spring, things were looking very positive for Bangladesh,” Herman said. “The Accord and Alliance made progress on the ground in Bangladesh and everything was positive and for the most part still is.” Herman was referring to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, two industry-driven initiatives seeking to institute reforms in the apparel industry there.
He said Bangladesh is likely taking some sourcing away from number-one supplier China, which posted a 3.6 percent decline to 2.7 billion squaremeter equivalents in apparel and textile imports to the U.S. in October. Apparel imports to the U.S. from China were down 5.3 percent.
Apparel and textile imports from Vietnam, the second-largest apparel supplier to the U.S., rose 5 percent to 388 million SME.
Several countries posted import declines, including India, which had a 14.4 percent fall; Mexico, a 12.8 percent drop, and Honduras, an 11.3 percent decline in combined imports to the U.S.
Overall apparel and textile imports to the U.S. from the world fell 1.7 percent to 5.6 billion SME.
The trade deficit widened by 3.4 percent in October to $43.9 billion, compared to $42.5 billion in September.