U.S. May Strip Bangladesh of Tariff Breaks

May 16, 2013

The Obama administration may strip Bangladesh of import breaks following deadly accidents in the country’s textile industry, another sign of the pressure building on the Southeast Asian nation to improve labor conditions.

The move was prompted partly by a fire late last year that killed 112 people, and gained momentum after the recent factory collapse that claimed more than 1,100 lives.

Business, labor and advocacy groups are all struggling over how to respond to the April 24 incident — the worst-ever in the textile industry but an event that could produce meaningful change in a nation on its way to becoming the world’s largest garment exporter.

A group of mostly European nations has signed on to a binding inspection program. U.S. firms such as Wal-Mart have declined, but political backlash may be building. On Thursday, a group of senators wrote to major U.S. retailers urging them to reconsider, and the Obama administration is also debating how to get American firms more constructively engaged.

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