Dhaka, Bangladesh (CU)_ The European Union (EU) has urged Bangladesh to quickly revise the EPZ Labor Act in order to keep the Everything But Arms (EBA) benefit, which grants duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market. In 2019, Bangladesh passed a new law regarding export processing zones (EPZs). A proposed set of rules based on the legislature is now being reviewed by the law ministry. Bangladesh desires to draft a new legislation after the new regulations are implemented.
According to the letter signed by Ewa Synowiec, the director general of trade for the EU; Jordi Curell, the director general of employment for the EU; and Paola Pamaloni, the deputy managing director for Asia and the Pacific for the EU, “We would like to underline once again the importance of accelerating the date of amending the EPZ Labour Act, a key point expressly raised in the past years and in all our recent meetings in Dhaka.”
The Bangladeshi government previously presented to the EU a National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the EU’s nine-point action plan for Bangladesh by 2026. Although the proposal called for changing the EPZ Labor Act by February 2023, the government opposed the launch of trade unions. According to the three EU officials, “Waiting for the implementation of the EPZ Labor Rules is not needed. We therefore look forward to a concrete adjusted timeline for amending the EPZ Labor Act.”
Following the EU’s EBA monitoring delegation returned from Bangladesh in March after a visit, the EU recently wrote a letter to Bangladesh’s foreign minister Masud bin Momen saying, “Following the mission, essential concerns on the labor aspects remain, namely, to meet the commitments in the National Action Plan fully and on time.” In many regions, the deadlines for acts such as changing the Bangladesh Labor Rules and the EPZ Labor Rules have already passed for several months. According to the Bangladesh media, Bangladesh has suggested that it may not achieve certain NAP deadlines in other regions, such as those regarding the deployment of all anticipated additional labor inspectors.
According to the EU’s statement, “We list some key points of the National Action Plan that we already raised during the mission. We recognise that these issues are complex, also against the background of the pandemic. Nevertheless, it is of paramount importance to be able to show also to our stakeholders- including the European Parliament and the 27 member states- that the commitments made by Bangladesh are being fulfilled on time”. It added, “This timely fulfillment of the commitments in the National Action Plan has also been pointed out as being key by the committee on International Trade of the European Parliament in its session on 20 April 2022”.