President Barack Obama announced Thursday the suspension of U.S. trade privileges for Bangladesh in response to growing concerns over labor rights and worker safety in the country.
The decision is the culmination of a years-long review of labor conditions in the impoverished South Asian nation. Pressure on the Obama administration to act intensified after more than 1,200 died when a factory collapsed April 24 — one of the global garment industry’s worst accidents.
In a proclamation, Obama said Bangladesh was not taking steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights to employees in that country.
Suspending the benefits developing countries receive as part of the Generalized System of Preferences program for Bangladesh is a highly symbolic move. As Bangladesh’s biggest trading partner after the European Union, the United States hopes it can exert significant pressure on Bangladesh’s authorities to reform labor practices and ensure workers’ rights in a country where factory accidents have been all too common and the minimum wage is just $38 per month.