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GENEVA – Local officials say they expect Pakistan to join the Better Work programme during 2019 in a significant boost for the country’s textile and apparel export sectors. Pakistan’s reputation in these industries suffered greatly in the wake of the Baldia factory fire which killed more than 260 people in 2012, with Walt Disney Co expressing public concerns about safety standards in the industry. The Better Work programme, run by the International Labour Organisation and the International Finance Corporation, aims to improve working conditions in the garment industry and make the sector more competitive by enabling collaboration between governments, global brands, factory owners, unions and workers. Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh are among members of the Better Work programme, however, Pakistan was declined entry to the programme back in 2013.

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The news that Pakistan is expected to join the programme was announced by Pakistan Textile Exporters Association chairman, Khurram Mukhtar. The country’s Export Development Fund is expected to provide funding for the move.

US licensor Walt Disney dropped Pakistan from its list of ‘Permitted Sourcing Countries’ in 2014. The US entertainment giant banned any import from Pakistan as the country failed to satisfy the trading partner company of its intentions to improve what it considered “poor governance standards”.

In 2017, Pakistan exported almost U$5bn worth of garments: US$2.52bn (knitwear) and US$2.47bn (woven).

Although garment sector exports have increased over the years and it has been the best performing segment of the textile value chain, the sector is believed by analysts to be grossly underperforming relative to its potential. Pakistan lags behind its competitors in the global share in export of garments. In 2017, Pakistan’s share in the exports of garments was just 1.10 per cent compared to China’s 32.06 per cent, Bangladesh’s 7.66 per cent, Vietnam’s 5.94 per cent, and India’s 3.81 per cent.

As well as issues around compliance, the country has suffered in the wake of terrorism concerns, with many buyers having been reluctant to enter the country – although this picture has improved in the past two-three years and there are signs that Pakistan is once again opening up for business.

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