November 30, 2023
DHAKA – The Bangladesh embassy in Washington has sent a letter to the commerce ministry, saying the country could be a target of trade measures such as trade penalties and visa restrictions in the US over labour issues.
The letter was sent on November 20, according to the ministry.
Senior Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh said he received the letter.
“The letter is not an alert. It is normal communication,” Ghosh told The Daily Star over the phone today.
In the letter, the embassy stated US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken’s remarks about the labour rights situation in different countries on November 16.
The letter stated, “Though the memorandum appears to be a global policy, applicable for all countries, there are reasons to believe that Bangladesh may be one of the targets.”
Labour issues in Bangladesh were specifically quoted by the secretary of state and acting secretary of labour, it said.
As per the “memorandum,” the US foreign mission would directly interact with or deal with labour issues; the policy may encourage interested US diplomats or missions to interfere in many internal or domestic issues, the embassy said.
It seems that there are scopes for this policy to be imposed at individual, firm, or state level if they anticipate or believe that labour rights are violated, the embassy wrote.
“The political context of the ‘memorandum’ has many reasons to be alarmed. Politics is behind what is said about labour rights in the memorandum, and the US would try to use the political purpose in different ways.”
Therefore, the “memorandum” is a signal for Bangladesh, as the US may take any measure as described in the memorandum with the excuse of the issues, it said.
“The memorandum may also have an impact on Bangladesh’s apparel sector, and it should be taken into cognizance with priority by the concerned stakeholders,” the embassy said.