December 7, 2023
Good morning, everyone.
It’s wonderful to see such a big turnout at Cotton Day 2023.
I want to start by thanking William Bettendorf and Ali Arsalan from Cotton Council International for organizing this great event.
I want to also acknowledge the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association’s President Faruque Hassan and the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association’s President Mohammad Ali Khokon, along with all the representatives from the mills, brands, and retailers here today.
You are all important customers for the United States, and we appreciate your continued support and business.
Bangladesh is a major market for U.S. cotton.
And this annual Cotton Day event is a fantastic way to bring together everyone who uses U.S. cotton – from the spinning mills all the way to the final retail outlet.
As I am sure many of you are aware, this year Bangladesh removed the requirement for U.S. cotton to be fumigated on arrival.
The removal of the cotton fumigation requirement is one of the biggest economic trade successes the Embassy achieved in 2023.
But this is not just a success for the United States, it is a win for all of you in Bangladesh.
Simply put, it allows you faster access to high quality U.S. cotton with lower costs.
I have heard that the removal of the fumigation requirement is saving individual mills up to $35,000 a year and is reducing the amount of time it takes to clear customs by several days.
The decision to remove the fumigation requirement was one based on science, and I hope it sets a precedent for continued collaboration between the United States and Bangladesh on science-based trade facilitation.
In 2022, U.S. cotton exports reached almost $470 million, which represented 15 percent of total U.S. exports to Bangladesh.
While total exports are down this year, we are still seeing inroads for U.S. cotton in Bangladesh, as the percentage of the U.S. market share is growing.
I believe that the growth in market share is based on the increased awareness of the benefits of using high-quality U.S. cotton.
Through the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, the United States can offer a transparent supply of sustainable cotton, which is being demanded by brands around the world.
The entire world is facing the challenge of climate change, and agricultural production both needs to adapt to heatwaves, droughts, pests, and other impacts of climate change as well as proactively work to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
The Cotton Trust Protocol sets a new standard in sustainably grown cotton, ensuring it contributes to the protection and preservation of the planet, using the most sustainable and responsible techniques.
That is why water use, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, soil conservation, soil carbon, and land use are all factors in developing the world’s first sustainable cotton fiber program.
The growth of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol program in Bangladesh is remarkable.
The Cotton Trust Protocol was launched in 2020, and in just three years over 190 mills and manufacturers have enrolled.
All sectors of the Bangladesh textile industry can join and benefit from the protocol.
The program continues to add leading American brands such as Macy’s and American Eagle Outfitters.
As those of you here today look to expand your use of U.S. cotton, I recommend that you take advantage of the resources that Cotton Council International can provide.
Their Cotton USA Solutions team offers free services for mills and manufacturers who are part of the Cotton Trust Protocol, enabling them to be more productive.
This year, work that the Solutions team in Bangladesh has done has resulted in higher efficiencies, lower wastage, and better quality of yarn using 100 percent U.S. cotton.
As we look at the readymade garment sector, one of our mission’s priorities here in Bangladesh is a sustainable and broadly shared prosperity realized through improved labor standards. This brings me to labor rights which are critical to the continued growth and sustainability of the readymade garment sector in Bangladesh.
On November 16, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the new U.S. Presidential Memorandum on “Advancing Worker Empowerment, Rights, and High Labor Standards Globally.”
This new Global Labor Strategy calls on all U.S. government agencies to intensify engagements with governments, labor organizations, trade unions, civil society, and the private sector to promote and protect the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
Strong labor laws and their implementation are vital to our bilateral relationship, sustainable and inclusive development, and to support a stable and predictable operating environment for U.S. companies operating in Bangladesh.
The recent minimum wage review for the readymade garment sector has demonstrated the clear need for an objective, inclusive and evidence-based National Wage Policy that addresses the severe economic challenges faced by garment workers.
The United States looks forward to deepening our work with the private sector and other stakeholders to advance internationally recognized worker rights in the RMG sector and beyond.
I again want to thank all of you for being great partners with the United States and great customers of U.S. cotton. I hope today’s event will be beneficial for you and teach you even more about the benefits of including U.S. cotton in your business.