Bangladesh exports benefit amid sourcing uncertainty

Mark Lane | 10th January 2019

DHAKA – Ready-made garment exports soared from Bangladesh in the six months to December 2018, witnessing a 15.6 per cent increase over the corresponding period to December 2017. Export earnings increased to US$17.08bn over the six-month period, compared to US$14.7bn for the six month period to December 2017. The figures, provided by the country‘s Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), suggest Bangladesh could be benefitting from concerns that Cambodia and Myanmar may potentially lose major trading benefits in the coming months. Just this week, the US announced a new Cambodia Trade Act in a bid to keep the country in check over human rights issues.

Bangladesh’s RGM sector easily exceeded its export target for the period to December, with earnings from the sector 8.5 per cent higher than the target of US$15.7bn set for the period. Knitwear products fetched US$8.6bn, which is 13.9 per cent higher than the US$7.5bn in the same period a year ago. Woven products earned US$8.4bn, up by 17.4 per cent, compared to US$7.17bn a year ago.

The Bangladeshi government expects to bring in more than US$60bn by 2021 from exports, with garment manufacturers indicating that apparel shipments should grow 12-15 per cent a year to hit the country’s US$50bn export target by 2021.

The one cloud on the horizon at the present times is the ongoing protests in Bangladesh about the implementation of the new national minimum wage for the garment sector. Workers have this week been striking over claims that the full wage rise has not been properly implemented. Some crowds have been broken up by police water cannons and rubber bullets, with several workers reported injured and report of a death.

Meanwhile, this week the US Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) have introduced the Cambodian Trade Act of 2019, which will require the administration to review the preferential trade treatment Cambodia receives under the General System of Preferences (GSP).

The act has been introduced in response to claims of human and labour rights abuses in the country. “America has invested in the political future of Cambodia by establishing reliable trade and commerce, as codified in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP),” Sen. Cruz said. “Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has exploited preferential treatment afforded to it by the United States and Europe. He has failed to meet basic labor rights standards, undermined the integrity of elections in Cambodia, and tilted toward China. The Cambodian Trade Act aims to hold him and his government accountable for this behavior, and reinforces steps our European partners are taking.”