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EU Bangladesh trade benefits at risk over labour rights?

The European Union has threatened to suspend Bangladesh's trade privileges if labour standards in the south Asian nation do not improve.

According to local media reports, a joint letter sent to the Bangladesh embassy in Brussels from three European Commission bodies says the country needs to implement the four recommendations outlined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) last year.

The reports claim a suspension would see Bangladesh lose the trade benefits it currently enjoys under the EU's Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, and instead pay 12.5% duty on exports to the 28-nation bloc.

Bangladesh will need to demonstrate that it is taking "concrete and lasting measures" to ensure labour rights are respected, and without such progress, a formal investigation may be launched, the letter reportedly says.

Other calls include for the Bangladesh government to amend the 2013 Labour Act to address the issues pertaining to freedom of association and collective bargaining, full freedom of association for workers in the export processing zones (EPZs), and allowing the workers' organisations to associate with their counterparts from outside the EPZs.

According to The Daily Star, the matter will be discussed during the third round of the Sustainability Compact meeting between the EU and Bangladesh in May.

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