Dhaka Apparel Summit unites industry stakeholders

The first ever Dhaka Apparel Summit took place from 7th to 8th December in Dhaka, Bangladesh and was held concurrently with the International Trade Expo for Building and Fire Safety 2014, both sponsored by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

The first edition was deemed successful, attracting over 10,000 participants including representatives of Bangladesh's ready-made garment (RMG) factories, international brands, worker organizations, fire-safety-equipment vendors and NGOs. Its aim was to shape a more sustainable and responsible global supply chain and to open and further the dialogue between stakeholders to frame a sustainable road map on building responsible supply chains in the textiles and garment sector.

Among more than 50 scheduled speakers taking part in nine seminars were Wilma Wallace, deputy general counsel of Gap. Inc.; Ian Bailey, COO of Kmart Australia; Nate Herman, vice president, American Apparel and Footwear Association; Arnold M. Zack, professor, Harvard Law School, and Kihak Sung, chairman and CEO, Youngone Corp.

Export volume of 50 billion US dollars is the goal

The summit's theme was "Bangladesh RMG 2021: $50 Billion on the 50th Anniversary of Bangladesh", stressing the aim of reaching an RMG export volume of 50 billion US dollars by 2021. The session dedicated to this theme focused on devising a strategic action plan to overcome Bangladesh's existing challenges and to realize its potentials. “Achieving 50 billion US dollars should not be the goal. Profit and better life should be the goal,” commented Kihak Sung.

Among the priority issues discussed were infrastructure, establishing a deep sea port, SEZs, power, gas, human resources development, compliance issues, prudent commercial diplomacy and political stability, supportive policies and coordination between different government agencies, product and market diversification. Market diversification strategies and dynamics in global tariff structure were also on the agenda. “Infrastructure, energy, education need to be ensured to achieve the target”, confirmed Ellen O’Kane Tauscher, chair, board of directors, Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.

Francois de Maricourt, CEO of HSBC Limited, Bangladesh stressed the importance of good governance, education and efficiency to reach the export target of 50 billion US dollars. "If we can increase the efficiency by 10 percent, then reaching the target will be possible. The government should reduce duty on import. Reaching the target will be easy if we can ensure good infrastructure", found Kihak Sung.

Last but not least, a session titled "Environmental Sustainability – A must" was dedicated to exploring ways to achieve environmentally sustainable economic growth in a densely populated country like Bangladesh. It also examined how the RMG sector can meet the required standards. This included discussions on environmental health and safety, resource efficiency, the environmental footprint, a global agenda on the environment, the impact on buying patterns as well as preparedness and green concepts.

According to John T. Smith, long-term advisor for Better Work in Textiles and Garments of UNIDO, many garment factories of Bangladesh are going green and "a good number of green factories are being established". “So I believe that Bangladesh will lead the world in this area in the coming years”, he added.

“The opportunities for Bangladesh are growing. If the progress continues with the pace it was over the last 18 months, then there is no question that Bangladesh will reach the target of 50 billion US dollars”, summed up Rick Darling, executive director for government and public affairs, Li & Fung.