US suspends Bangladesh trade privileges after garment industry disaster

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is suspending U.S. trade privileges for Bangladesh because of concerns over labour rights and worker safety that intensified after hundreds died there in the global garment industry’s worst accident.

In a proclamation, Obama said Thursday that Bangladesh was not taking steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights to employees in the South Asian country.

U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman said the U.S. will, however, start new discussions with Bangladesh on improving workers’ conditions so the duty-free benefits that cover thousands of products can be restored.

Thursday’s announcement was the culmination of a yearslong review of labour conditions in the impoverished country. Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for the step since the April 24 collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka that killed 1,129 people.