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Suspending Trade Privileges a Tiny Twig to Push Worker Rights in Bangladesh

The Obama administration has announced the suspension of Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) over the country’s failure to improve working conditions and protect worker rights. The decision is not surprising given the problems in Bangladesh, but, as I noted here in January, it is purely symbolic. First, GSP does not include clothing. Second, it accounts for a trivial $35 million of duty-free exports, or less than 1 percent of Bangladesh’s total exports to the United States, most of which (90 percent) is clothing. Meanwhile, most Bangladeshi exports face an average duty of 15 percent, one of the highest rates in the US market.