The USAID and a dozen of US-based retail, apparel and footwear companies teamed up on Wednesday to help and alleviate the hardship faced by the workers in the Asian supply chains, including that of Bangladesh.
The relief comes as part of the efforts to reduce the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the workers, particularly women workers.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) deputy administrator Bonnie Glick announced a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a consortium of the US retail, apparel and footwear companies as well as industry associations in the US's third annual Indo-Pacific Business Forum (IBPF).
The two-daylong IPBF began on Wednesday in Hanoi, Vietnam, with the vision for making the Indo-Pacific as a free and open region.
The MoU intends to pursue much-needed relief to the predominantly female workers in the US companies' supply chains in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, according to a statement.
Ms Glick signed the MoU on behalf of the USAID, and Steve Lamar, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), signed it on behalf of the consortium.
The participating companies and industry associations are Carter's Inc, Gap, Global Brands Group, Levi Strauss and Company, Nike, Tapestry, Target, VF Corporation, Walmart, AAFA, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, and the US Fashion Industry Association.
"With unprecedented speed and scale, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on global supply chains, disrupting trade and investment, putting frontline workers at risk, and eliminating the jobs of millions of other workers, especially women," the statement added.
The apparel, footwear, and fashion accessories (AFFA) sector in Asia has been among the most-affected industries, challenged by constraints on supply and demand that arose from stay-at-home orders, temporary closures of businesses, stoppages in production, backlogs in shipment, and cargo delays, it added.
The MoU establishes an objective for the USAID and the consortium to work together over the coming year to alleviate hardships, faced by the AFFA sector workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.
Such efforts, in collaboration with local partners, will aim to create a more resilient AFFA sector and workforce, enhance the rights and welfare of workers in the AFFA factories, and empower women in the AFFA workforce, it stated.
During the 2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum, the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) announced the finalising of new commitments, and unveiled a series of initiatives that will serve to deepen economic ties between the United States and the Indo-Pacific region.
These new projects span the energy, healthcare, ICT and transportation sectors in eight countries across the region.
By funding projects that develop sustainable infrastructure and foster economic growth, the USTDA has established itself as an essential and enduring partner to the Indo-Pacific region, the statement quoted Todd Abrajano, the USTDA Chief Operating Officer and Head of Agency, as saying.
"Hosting the 2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum continues our mission, and reaffirms our commitment to the future of this vital part of the world and the opportunities it provides for the US companies," Todd Abrajano said.
Among other commitments, the USTDA will support Indo-Pacific natural gas infrastructure development through a series of reverse trade missions (RTMs).
These will bring leaders from Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam to the US to review the best practices for value-based natural gas infrastructure planning and observe the most innovative American natural gas technologies, equipment and services.
The USTDA will also support Bangladesh's efforts to strengthen the management and dredging of its inland waterways through an RTM that will bring public and private sector leaders there to explore best practices and advanced technologies.
Regarding Bangladesh, it also said the USTDA is helping the Bangladesh Railway meet its long-term railway modernisation goals by funding a training programme that will include tailored academic and field-based training with the leading US railway experts and suppliers of railway equipment.
By creating an enabling environment for power trade, transformative policy changes on cross-border power trade in India enabled Nepal and Bangladesh to use India's transmission lines as a pass-through for electricity exchange, it also said.
Terming the cooperation 'critical' in South Asia, it added that intra-regional economic activity is roughly five per cent of South Asia's total trade, and still holds tremendous potential to spur growth.