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BKMEA Urges Diplomacy Over US Trade Sanctions Threat Amid Labor Rights Debate

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In a recent roundtable discussion at the National Press Club in Dhaka, Mohammad Hatem, the executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), criticized the United States for considering trade sanctions on Bangladesh regarding labor rights issues.

Hatem argued that any concerns should be addressed diplomatically rather than through punitive economic measures. He highlighted Bangladesh’s commitment to international labor standards, emphasizing the nation’s endorsement of all eight core fundamental conventions on workers’ rights, in contrast to the limited endorsements by influential nations like the US, China, India, and Vietnam.

Hatem questioned the moral standing of the US in discussing labor rights, pointing out the differing levels of commitment between Bangladesh and the mentioned nations. He pledged the support of entrepreneurs to the government in dealing with any potential political actions but stressed that there is no justification for trade sanctions.

The president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Faruque Hassan, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing Bangladesh’s adherence to labor laws and expressing concern over the impact of potential sanctions on the industry.

Faruque Hassan addressed a letter from eight US Congress members urging apparel and footwear importers to raise clothing prices due to the recent 56% increase in wages in Bangladesh. He asserted that adjustments to product prices should be the responsibility of buyers. Despite concerns about the global economic situation and inflation, Hassan expressed confidence in maintaining positive export growth and emphasized the industry’s commitment to a $100 billion export target.

Engineer Md Shafiqur Rahman, president of the Institution of Textile Engineers and Technologists, highlighted the significant progress in the apparel industry since the Rana Plaza collapse, emphasizing improved labor rights and the industry’s positive trajectory.

The roundtable discussion was presided over by Shyamal Dutta, general secretary of the National Press Club, and featured insights from various industry leaders, including Dhaka University professors, business executives, and the general secretary of the Bangladesh National Garments Sramik-Karmachari League, Ruksana Akhter.

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Economy

Feb Records $2.16bn Highest Remittance Inflow in 8 Months

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Expatriate Bangladeshis contributed a record-high of US$2.16 billion in remittances during February, marking the highest figure in the past eight months.

This substantial increase of 38.46% compared to the same month last year, as reported by Bangladesh Bank, comes as a significant boost to the country’s foreign exchange reserves. Notably, June 2023 had witnessed a slightly higher remittance inflow at $2.19 billion.

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Foreign Minister to Address OIC Meeting on Israeli Aggression

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Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud, currently in Turkey, is scheduled to participate in an extraordinary meeting of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) Council of Foreign Ministers in Jeddah on March 5. The meeting aims to address the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. The OIC will host the meeting at its General Secretariat headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Following his participation in the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey from March 1 to 3, Foreign Minister Hasan will travel to Jeddah to attend the OIC meeting. During the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, Hasan emphasized the urgent need for a collective effort to end the ongoing genocide in Gaza and hold Israel accountable for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha is expected to address the opening session of the meeting. A preparatory senior officials meeting (SOM) will precede the meeting to discuss and adopt the draft agenda and work program and consider the draft resolution before submitting it to the Council of Foreign Ministers the following day.

In November of the previous year, Saudi Arabia hosted an extraordinary joint Arab and Islamic Summit in Riyadh, jointly organized by the OIC and the League of Arab States. The conference adopted several decisions, including assigning a committee of Foreign Ministers to tour world capitals and international organizations to halt Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.

As part of its ongoing efforts to stop Israeli aggression, the OIC held an open-ended executive committee extraordinary meeting at the foreign minister level in October of the previous year.

In an interview with TRT World, Minister Hasan highlighted the lack of sufficient global action to halt the violence and atrocities in Gaza. He emphasized that the situation in Gaza constitutes crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

Representing Bangladesh at the Forum in Turkey, Hasan underscored the potential of the global community to play a pivotal role in addressing these atrocities. The Antalya Diplomacy Forum, initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, concluded on March 3, convening heads of state, government officials, diplomats, business leaders, academics, and representatives from various sectors to discuss “Advancing Diplomacy in Times of Turmoil,” the theme for this year.

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BERC Announces Slight Increase in LPG Rates

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In a recent update from the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC), the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) has been raised by Tk0.66, reaching a new rate of Tk123.52 per kg, up from the previous Tk122.86. This adjustment, effective from 6 pm on Sunday, signals a slight uptick in household and commercial expenses.

The BERC, during a press briefing on March 3, provided details on the price adjustment, stating that the cost for a standard 12 kg LPG cylinder will now be Tk1,482, inclusive of VAT, marking an increase from the previous Tk1,474. This adjustment follows a rational scale across various LPG cylinder sizes, ranging from 5.5 kg to 45 kg, aiming to ensure a proportional price revision across different consumer segments.

Additionally, the price for “auto gas,” the LPG variant used in motor vehicles, has also been revised to Tk68.05 per litre, including VAT, a slight increase from Tk67.68. This adjustment reflects the broader impact of LPG price changes on transportation and related costs.

It is noteworthy that LPG prices offered by the state-owned LP Gas Company will remain unchanged. This exception is attributed to its local production and the company’s minimal market share, which is less than 5%.

The decision to adjust LPG prices is a response to the escalating costs in the international market, particularly linked to the rise in the Saudi CP (contract price), a benchmark influencing local operators importing LPG primarily from the Middle East.

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