Joint statement between the EU and Bangladesh after the deadly Savar factory collapse, by José Ángel Rueda

On 28 May 2013 EU’s Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht and Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni issued a joint statement[1] regarding the deadly collapse of a garment factory in Savar, near Dhaka, on 24 April 2013 where 1,129 people were killed and some 2,500 were injured.[2] The message is crystal clear for both exporters and importers of garment products manufactured in Bangladesh in particular and in developing countries in general:

We came together today and expressed our deepest sorrow to the families of hundreds of workers who lost their lives and others who sustained injuries in the recent tragedy of factory collapse in Savar, Dhaka. Today’s meeting has demonstrated our collective determination to work together to improve the labour conditions for the Bangladeshi workers in the Ready-Made Garment industry. The devastating loss of workers’ lives in recent factory fires and the collapse of the Rana Plaza building calls for urgency to intensify ongoing efforts to work together in enhancing workers’ rights and safety standards to improve the overall work environment and prevent similar tragedies in future. We express our resolve now to approach a period of deep engagement for all actors involved in the global value chain – namely, global buyers, brands, governments and consumers – to work together in promoting a fair, ethical and responsible supply chain management across the industry. In this regard, we recall the resolution of the European Parliament adopted on 23 May 2013.

We recognize that the EU’s preferential trade scheme “Everything But Arms” has played an important role in expanding Bangladesh’s export to the EU making it the largest and major export destination of Bangladesh and thus contributed greatly to economic development, employment, income level, in particular women rights, and most importantly poverty reduction in Bangladesh. We, therefore, pledge to safeguard Everything but Arms benefits through determined action to improve health and occupational safety standards in the export-oriented Ready-Made Garment factories in Bangladesh. We urge foreign buyers, in particular European companies, to remain engaged and work with the EU and Bangladesh to support and promote socially responsible supply chains. A dedicated meeting, to that effect, will take place before this summer to consider the related issues.

We recognize that the adoption of a Joint Statement by Tripartite Partners (government, employers, workers) with the ILO on 4 May 2013 provides a valuable starting point for intensifying efforts to improve health and occupational safety in the Ready-Made Garment sector. In this regard, we look forward to the early commencement of the ILO Better Works Programme. We also look forward to an early adoption of the government’s recent initiative to amend the existing Labour Law by the parliament of Bangladesh, which has already been recommended by Bangladesh Cabinet.

[1] “Joint Statement by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni following recent disasters in the Bangladeshi garment manufacturing industry”, 28 May 2013, available at From the EU’s side, see also “Joint Statement by HR/VP Catherine Ashton and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht following the recent building collapse in Bangladesh”, 30 April 2013, available at

[2] “Bangladesh building collapse: An end to recovery efforts, a promise of a new start”, 23 May 2013, available at