ILRF Statement on US Tax Breaks for Bangladeshi Businesses

International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) calls on the United States
Trade Representative (USTR) to end tax breaks for Bangladeshi
business and instead use the resources to invest in a
brighter future for Bangladeshi workers. For more than five years, the
USTR has been continuing to review whether Bangladesh business should benefit
from tax breaks granted under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade
program in what has been an unsuccessful effort to convince the Government of
Bangladesh to end labor abuses in the garment industry and to hold its business
community accountable for the abuses.

Unfortunately, failing
to take action on the AFL-CIO’s long-standing petition to end GSP benefits, even in the face of phenomenal, unprecedented deaths
of Bangladeshi garment workers, the US government has been
sending the wrong signal to the Bangladeshi government and
business community. Since the petition was filed in 2007, the
Bangladeshi government has failed to take any serious action
to ensure workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively or to
hold accountable those responsible for the murder of Aminul Islam and
the deaths of thousands of garment workers who have lost
their lives in preventable fires and building
collapses while producing goods for US consumers.

of taking serious action to address the abuses in response to the US government
review, the Bangladeshi government has denied the severity of the
violations on record to the USTR and continued business as usual by
supporting policies that deny workers their fundamental rights.  At the same time, the Government of
Bangladesh redoubled efforts to lobby key US government officials to minimize
the issues and audaciously request even more tax breaks for its

In the
wake of the Rana Plaza tragedy which claimed the lives of more than 1,100
garment workers who had been denied their rights to refuse dangerous work and
organize for safe and decent working conditions, the US government must change
course by revoking the GSP tax breaks designed to reward the Bangladesh
government and businesses for improving the lives of workers.

revoking tax breaks is not enough. The USTR should also encourage
support for the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. By
endorsing the Accord, and working with US companies to sign and implement its
provisions, US trade officials will be making a significant contribution
to the growth of a long-term and, most importantly, sustainable trading
partnership with Bangladesh that will benefit both Bangladeshi
workers and US consumers.  More
specifically, the Accord is an agreement between business and trade unions; thus
support for the Accord is a clear way for the USTR to indicate its expectations
that Bangladesh improve its laws and labor justice system to ensure workers’
ability to form and join trade unions and to bargain collectively.

or not Obama administration officials can ultimately convince more US companies
to formally commit to investing in Bangladesh for the long-term, moving US
companies away from low-road buying policies to join their European
counterparts as market leaders, they should work with
Congress to find ways to invest the savings accrued from
ending the tax breaks to Bangladesh to support Bangladeshi
workers.  Those savings can provide
financial support for the victims of the disasters at Tazreen
Fashions and Rana Plaza and ensure the successful
implementation of the Bangladesh Safety Accord.