World Wrap

EU may review trade agreement with Bangladesh

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
May 1, 2013

The European Union threatens to reconsider trade agreements with Bangladesh, Pakistan’s military is not pleased with Musharraf’s treatment, and Boston bombers’ ethnic background highlights modern-day Chechnya. Today is Wednesday, May 1, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.


Rescue workers attempt to save garment workers from the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, in Savar, 19 miles outside Dhaka, April 29, 2013.  REUTERS/Khurshed Rinku

EU responds to Bangladesh tragedy. The European Union may take trade action against Bangladesh in an attempt to force the country to take workplace safety more seriously, following last week’s building collapse which killed hundreds of workers and injured thousands.

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. But 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.

If Bangladesh loses preferential trading status it will suffer significant monetary loss. IndustriAll Global Union, a Swiss-based labor rights organization that represents 50 million workers worldwide, set a May 15 deadline for Western retailers to commit to a safety plan for Bangladesh including funds for inspections, trainings and facilities upgrades. Bangladesh exported roughly $11 billion worth of garments to the EU in the year through June 2012. The Retail Council of Canada plans to develop a new set of safety guidelines for their Bangladeshi garment suppliers.  And some Canadian companies which contracted work to factories in the fallen building said they will compensate the families of the victims.

Pakistan chief disgruntled by Musharraf’s treatment. Pakistan’s army chief signaled the military was upset by how officials are treating disgraced former military leader and president Pervez Musharraf, who was banned from entering political elections for life:

In what newspapers described as a veiled reference to Musharraf’s legal troubles, Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani said: “In my opinion, it is not merely retribution, but awareness and participation of the masses that can truly end this game of hide and seek between democracy and dictatorship.” Kayani, arguably the most powerful figure in Pakistan, was delivering a Martyrs’ Day speech at army headquarters. Newspapers carried his comments on front pages.

Musharraf surprised Pakistanis when he returned in March after going into self-imposed exile in London and Dubai, following his 2008 presidential resignation. He became the first former military chief to be arrested in Pakistan last week, marking a changing attitude towards army elite in the country, which spent much of its history under military rule. Musharraf himself nabbed the presidency via a military coup in 1999. A court remanded Musharraf for two weeks on April 20, preparing to place him on trial for cracking down on the judiciary in 2007.

Chechnya in 2013. The Boston bombings put Chechnya back into international spotlight, bringing into focus a volatile environment masked by a relatively calm exterior:

Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s ethnic homeland, a mainly Muslim province that saw centuries of war and repression, no longer threatens to secede from Russia. But it has become breeding ground for a form of militant Islam whose adherents have spread violence to other parts of Russia, and may have inspired the radicalization of the Boston bombers. “It may look like it’s stable and peaceful but it’s really not the case,” said a human rights campaigner, who, like others daring to express any criticism of the Moscow-backed Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, asked that her name not be used.

Moscow invested billions of roubles into Grozny’s rebuilding, and Chechnya’s capital is now a cosmopolitan city. But the country’s rural areas reveal in impoverished country, with unemployment as high as 80 percent in some areas. Kadyrov is supported by some for maintaining relative peace but also criticized for creating an oppressive environment. One dissident described Chechnya as comparable to George Orwell’s 1984: “Nothing is going to change here any time soon. Chechen spring? Forget about it.”

Nota Bene: Google’s slippery tax plan occludes liabilities in the UK.

Standouts:

Italians bring in the new - Reuters columnist John Lloyd predicts Italy may be at a political turning point. (Reuters)

Vietnam pride - Despite a shaky human rights record, Vietnam may be the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. (The Atlantic)

Feline siren - An India zoo shut down after an amorous wild male tiger tried to enter a tigress’ enclosure. (BBC)

Secret sauna parties - Chinese officials bypass austerity measures by living large behind closed doors. (The Telegraph)

No baby Lucifer - New Zealand releases a list of banned baby names. (CNN)

From the File:

  • Thousands rally against European austerity on May Day
  • China says U.S. should watch Japanese nationalism
  • Russia’s Putin restores Stalin-era labor award
  • Youth voice hope for change in static Palestinian politics
  • Rebel gains in southern Syria sharpen Jordan’s dilemma

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