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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 11:37 GMT
Bangladesh textile sector in crisis
Women working in a Bangladesh factory
The textile sector is the country's largest employer
By the BBC's Alastair Lawson in Dhaka

A US delegation visiting Bangladesh has said it will lobby for more concessions for the country's textile exports.

Bangladesh's textile industry is in crisis after a slump in orders from abroad - especially the US since 11 September - and hundreds of thousands of employees have already lost their jobs.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association says that business is also in decline because of increased competition from the rest of Asia.

Bangladesh is not among the 74 of the world's least developed countries which are allowed duty and quota free access to the US market for their readymade garments.

The industry is Bangladesh's largest employer, accounting for more than 70% of overseas exports.

No concrete proposals

Last year two senior Bangladeshi ministers visited Washington to plead for more orders and now the US has reciprocated, sending two Congressmen to Dhaka.

The two Congressmen, Joseph Crowley and James McDermott, did not announce any concrete measures to help the ailing Bangladeshi textile industry.

But they did say they expect investment in Bangladesh to increase significantly over the next few years.

Mr Crowley told a news conference in Dhaka that he understands how important the textile industry is to Bangladesh.

"It is important to us that we do everything we can in the Congress to make in possible for you to continue to expand your textile relationship with the United States and while we are back there we will be working on trying to get a better opportunity for Bangladesh in the textile arena," he said.

"There are many ways to do that and I am not sure how it will happen but I am confident that with the help of the Bangladesh American community we can raise enough attention to this issue that it will be possible to make a change."

Employment for women

In meeting with senior politicians, including Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the Congressmen welcomed the efforts of Bangladesh to eradicate child labour and empower women.

The women of the garment industry are crucial to Bangladesh's economic progress.

It is estimated that more than 800,000 women work in garment factories across the country but in the last few months around one eighth have lost their jobs.

See also:

12 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh wants textiles curbs lifted
08 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh gets no trade favours
22 Oct 01 | Business
Pakistan textiles deal angers India
17 Oct 01 | South Asia
Bangladeshi PM warns on economy
11 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bangladesh
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