U.S. President Barack Obama suspended trade preferences on Thursday for Bangladesh after a building collapse killed more than 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers in April.

Mr. Obama notified Congress that he intended to suspend the country’s benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences that allowed zero or reduced tariffs on some imported products.

He said Bangladesh had not afforded “internationally recognised worker rights” to its people, are a key requirement for preferred status.

Bangladesh had been able to export to the United States nearly 5,000 types of items without paying import tariffs. Nearly a quarter of the country’s textile exports, valued at $4.5 billion, are exported to the U.S. every year.

It was not clear what impact removal of the preference would have on a U.S. trade and investment deal approved this month by Bangladesh.

Left-leaning parties in Bangladesh opposed the agreement, arguing that it only served U.S. purposes.

Even before the deadly building collapse, Bangladesh already stood to lose its preferential status after a 2012 fire killed 112 workers in a factory. A panel at the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) found in January that suspension of preferred status was in order.

The AFL-CIO, the leading U.S. labour organisation, has petitioned since 2007 for Bangladesh to improve workers’ safety and rights.

source:  The hindu