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US to Bangladesh: The Responsibility Is Yours

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Monde Apparels factory worker, Bangladesh. Via CBS

A second series of talks between the US and Bangladesh government representatives began in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Sunday. In a speech, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman summed up the US's position: "We are encouraging international investors not to turn their back on Bangladesh, because the solution is reform, not withdrawal," she said.

As far as that reform goes, however, Sherman made it clear that the US ultimately considers this to be Bangladesh's problem to solve. "The responsibility for enforcing robust labor standards is the responsibility of the government of Bangladesh," she said. "I cannot presume to tell the people of Bangladesh or your leaders what issues demand attention, what wrongs must be righted, or what approach your country must take as it faces the grave challenges of the future. In Bangladesh, as in any democracy, this is for the people alone to decide."

Sherman said the US is helping the situation by "working with U.S. companies that source garments from factories in Bangladesh to secure their support for better safety inspections," and by "funding labor and civil society organizations to promote respect for rights at work, including freedom to join a trade union."

Additionally, Sherman said that "engineers and architects from the Bangladeshi diaspora in the United States have stepped up to help recruit a corps of independent safety inspectors."
· U.S. urges garment buyers to stay engaged with Bangladesh [Reuters]
· U.S. Puts Pressure on Bangladesh [WWD]