Bangladesh garment factory
File photo of clothes and sewing machines in the Tazreen Fashions garment factor in Savar. Reuters

Bangladesh’s garment exports are rising despite an international backlash over the recent deaths of more than 1,000 factory workers last month, Reuters said Tuesday.

According to a report by Bangladesh’s Export Promotion Bureau, garment exports rose 13 percent from last year to $21.5 billion, making Bangladesh the world’s second-largest apparel exporter after China, Reuters reported.

On April 24 the Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing 1,132 sweatshop workers.

In response to the tragedy the White House last week issued a proclamation suspending Bangladesh’s duty-free trade arrangement under the so-called Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) “because it has not taken or is not taking steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights to workers in the country.”

A suspension is not expected to significantly affect Bangladesh, because garments, which account for a majority of the country’s exports, do not qualify for GSP tariff cuts.

However, a suspension by the European Union, which provides duty-free privileges for clothing, will have a greater economic impact on Bangladesh’s exports.

The U.S. accounts for 23 percent of the country’s $20 billion export market, followed by Germany, the U.K. and Spain, according to the Observatory of Economic Activity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Bangladesh’s largest nontextile export is seafood, representing about $470 million, or 2.4 percent, of all exports. The country is hugely dependent on textile exports, which account for nearly 80 percent of the total.