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Bangladesh Table of Contents

Bangladesh

Garments

The first ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh aimed at the export market were opened in the late 1970s by investors from other Asian countries whose exports had been restrained by quotas imposed by importing nations. By the mid-1980s, the ready-made garment industry had become a strong export earner. Garment exports brought receipts of only US$3 million in FY 1981, but by 1984 exports had risen to US$32 million, and the following year revenue soared to US$116 million. For FY 1985 and FY 1986, ready-made garments were the second biggest foreign exchange earner for Bangladesh after jute.

The surge in Bangladeshi exports eventually caused a reaction among some industrial nations. Canada, the European Economic Community, and the United States expressed concern that inexpensive Bangladeshi garments were flooding their markets. In 1985, after a series of notices as called for by multilateral agreements, the United States--which was the destination of about 25 percent of Bangladesh's garment exports--began imposing quotas on Bangladeshi garments, one category at a time.

Bangladeshi manufacturers, working with the government, organized with remarkable speed and efficiency to adapt to changing conditions. They policed themselves to stay within quotas, allocating production quotas according to equitable criteria, and began diversifying their production into categories where there were not yet quotas: for example, cotton trousers, knitwear, dresses, and gloves. After a period of adjustment, during which some of the least well-established firms closed and workers were laid off, the industry began stabilizing, and growth continued at a more moderate pace. Exports in FY 1986 rose another 14 percent, to US$131 million, and prospects were good for continued growth at about that rate.

Data as of September 1988