The appeal by the BGMEA to different foreign mission officials to highlight the country's apparel products cannot be interpreted as a routine exercise. Odds are not in favour of Bangladesh at the moment; opportunities are seen fading away due to lack of prompt measures. It may not be over-reactive to call the present situation in the RMG sector hardly conducive to the industry. Against this background, the view-exchange between the leaders of the apparel sector and foreign mission officials couldn't be timelier. Along with the ready-made garment (RMG) producers and exporters, higher government authorities have long been urging mission officials to help meet the nation's expectation from the apparel sector. The efforts proved futile. As expected, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association's (BGMEA) upper echelons have emphasised 'publicity measures'.
Despite the rising number of compliant factories producing quality items, undesirable developments loom over the RMG sector. Besides the sporadic flare-up of labour unrest, let alone suspected destabilising acts, false propaganda overseas is also hindering the prospects of the country's apparel sector. As the BGMEA president has pointed out, foreign mission officials can make a difference in this regard. They can successfully counter the propaganda by telling overseas buyers of the positive steps taken by factories here. After enjoying a peaceful phase for a considerably longer time, signs of trouble began surfacing in the sector from 2005 to 2013. Infrastructural flaws leading to industrial disasters like blaze and building collapse invited bouts of intractable labour unrest. The desperate efforts of the RMG sector to come out of the following state of depression have roots in both domestic and foreign factors. Apart from buyers' apathy caused by repeated industrial mishaps, the overall situation got entangled with the thorny issue of workplace safety.
The BGMEA's thrust on bringing into spotlight the improved state of workers' rights situation and the creation of environment-friendly atmosphere in factories highlights one thing --- the sector is apparently in a race against time to retain its market. Openings have already been created following the US-China trade war. With China being out of the race for now, Bangladesh can make attempts to fill in the void. Lots of other RMG-producing countries eye the US market. Taking urgent steps towards regaining the US GSP facility, thus, becomes imperative. The BGMEA is morally strong in this regard as it claims to have met most of the 16 conditions in order to get back the facility.
In spite of the mixed impact of the RMG factory remediation programme, the apparel industry is now tolerably poised to resume its march comfortably. Bangladesh is now the second largest exporter of RMG products after China. Periodic spells of decline prompted by internal and external factors may deprive the country of this coveted position. It ought to explore newer export destinations for its apparel items. Besides exporting RMG products to traditional markets like Germany, USA and UK, as well as France and some other EU countries, the country can target Russia and the developed countries in Africa and South America. These countries will surely prefer Bangladesh products to the expensive ones from the traditional RMG exporters.
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