|The European Union is considering trade action against Bangladesh, which has preferential access to EU markets for its garments, in order to pressure Dhaka to improve safety standards after a building collapse killed hundreds of factory workers.
Duty-free access offered by Western countries and low wages have helped turn Bangladesh's garment exports into a $19 billion a year industry, with 60 percent of clothes going to Europe.
Any action by the EU on Bangladesh's duty-free and quota-free access would require the agreement of all member states and could take more than a year to implement.
"The European Union calls upon the Bangladeshi authorities to act immediately to ensure that factories across the country comply with international labor standards...," the 27-nation bloc said in a statement issued by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht.
The Swiss-based IndustriAll Global Union, which represents 50m workers worldwide, has set a May 15 deadline to finalize with Western retailers a commitment to a fire and building safety plan for Bangladesh.
"Funds will be made available for inspections, training and upgrades of dangerous facilities," it said in a statement, and called on retailers to renegotiate contracts to pay suppliers more in order to guarantee living wages for workers and to enable technical upgrades to factories.