Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority signs MoC with JETRO

BEZA or the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority has recently signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) pertaining to exchanging and circulating investment information.

Media reports maintained this adding the MoC was signed at the BEZA headquarters in Dhaka recently during which were present Japanese Ambassador in Dhaka, Naoki Ito, JETRO Executive Vice President Kazuya Nakajo as the special guests, BEZA Executive Chairman Sheikh Yusuf Harun, amongst others.

Addressing the event, Naoki Ito reportedly said that this MoC will bear much importance with regard to establishing Japanese Economic Zone, Araihazar and Narayanganj as a world-class standard Economic Zone under BEZA even as he added Bangladesh has been working to develop an investment-friendly environment and the exchange of information between BEZA and JETRO will help in creating much more opportunity of attracting foreign investment from different countries of the world.


Bangladesh to remain RMG hotspot in future, buyers say

Bangladesh will remain as the preferred sourcing destination for readymade garment (RMG) items well into the future as the country has substantially improved production facilities and on compliance with regulations over the last few years, said international clothing retailers and brands yesterday.

Since the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013, Bangladesh’s workplace safety and compliance with regulations improved a lot, said the foreign buyers.

As a result, retailers and brands are coming over with an increased volume of work orders, especially with improvements in the Covid-19 situation, as the local apparel sector has also proved its strength.

“Bangladesh is the most important sourcing destination for our company,” said Ziaur Rahman, Swedish retail giant H&M’s regional head for Bangladesh, Pakistan and Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the 12th Bangladesh Denim Expo in Dhaka.


RMG vision: The immediate and the important

It’s an era of innovation. It’s an era of efficiency. In one part of the world, they are making “smart” jackets, which are creating a microclimate for the wearers, by using carbon fibre heating pads, and are also using Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa to even pre-heat the jacket before the consumers are putting them on. And yet, in another part of the world, most of us are spending most of our time battling the immediate in place of the important. What’s more needed for our readymade garment sector? Is it the important or the immediate? Or is it both? Considering the urgency to take the sector to the next level, the “important” might as well be listed:

Image deficit and branding

There are negative campaigns abroad that often rock the industry and these must be addressed with caution. It’s, after all, time to admit that much has been achieved and much needs to be done in terms of collaborative approaches from all stakeholders including brands, workers’ representatives and manufacturers. For us to battle the barrage of international criticism, we need to be more responsive, and readily equipped with substantiated data to address any confusion that may arise from time to time. Sufficient engagement of all stakeholders will then ensure that a lot has been done and that through remediation, the industry is moving on to the next platform of sustainability.

Product pricing

Maybe it’s time to call us competitive and not the cheapest. The country’s image, so far, has been only about being the supplier of the “cheapest” products. USD 5.86 billion worth of basic t-shirts are exported, followed by USD 5.20 billion worth of trousers with the rock bottom category belonging to value-added ladies’ blouses, jackets, cardigans, and a few other categories that haven’t even crossed USD 100 million in their individual brackets. While we feel that we can offer multiple products, the faith of the brands in our manufacturing capabilities is at a lower rung of the ladder. Attempts to add value by researching the fast-changing face of fashion and rapidly changing consumer patterns will definitely aid us in determining the next level of production focus.

Wage and productivity

It’s perhaps time for all to realise that not all are aware of the low margins of the original manufacturers. Thus, we need to try and attempt to correct that perception through honest narratives and professional lobbying, and we also need to make a clear connection between wages and productivity. The wage-skill grid must be practised to assess the basic efficiency of the workers and wages must be determined accordingly. This would translate into a win-win scenario for all.

Markets and policies

While there are bank-, bond-, port-, road- and infrastructure-related issues to handle within the country, there are also markets and policies that we need to tap into. For example, markets like Saudi Arabia import over USD 3,000 million from the world and yet source only 75.61 million from us at 5 percent duty. Russia imports USD 7,000 million against 5-10 percent and imports only USD 427 million from Bangladesh. China has zero import duty and yet out of USD 7,560 million, only USD 391.64 million is sourced from this country of ours. Brazil and Mexico are the same stories as Brazil imports only USD 158 million out of USD 1,794 million against a duty figure of 35 percent and Mexico with 20 percent duty sources only USD 148 million out of USD 3,775 million of its total exports…

One of the key factors determining our future will be our readiness to respond to international scenarios. While we must position ourselves to a post-Brexit landscape, we must also steady ourselves to bring to table the most critical discussion on a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Theresa May has already shared that India, Canada, China, India, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea are among the countries which are interested on an FTA agreement while the discussions with Australia and New Zealand have also already begun. Thus, it is time for Bangladesh as well to tow the same route.

There are also discussions on Bangladesh getting ready for GSP+. While this graduation is most certainly laudable, we must also consider that the validity of the EU GSP+ would depend on conditionalities, with respect to compliance of non-trade issues, beyond the scope of WTO, TBT, SPS and other agreements, covered under 27 core international conventions.