The purpose of the summit was to share the story of transformation within Bangladesh’s apparel industry in terms of sustainability, competitiveness and innovation, as well as in our country’s socio-economic and infrastructure context. We aimed to realign the broader stakeholders in Australia with our efforts in establishing a sustainable fashion supply chain and improved business.
I am glad to share with you that the Summit drew a significant gathering of stakeholders including brands and retailers, policy makers and development partners in Australia. This summit brought together a number of 130 participants from brands, retailers, suppliers, consumers, development partners, academicians and the supportive Australian policymakers. The event was a great platform to showcase the progress our industry has been able to make so far, and also to involve them in a discussion to move forward together.
The summit started with an opening plenary followed by two panel discussion sessions titled ‘Trade between Australia and Bangladesh – Charting the path for next decade’ and ‘Sustainability matters – ESG collaborations to shape the future of fashion’. I had the opportunity to deliver a keynote presentation in the opening plenary on our industry and country at large. During the sessions, the esteemed speakers including Australian Government Chief Whip Honorable Ms. Joanne Ryan, His Excellency the High Commissioner of Bangladesh Mr. M Allama Siddiki, official from the DFAT Victoria State office Ms. Sam Meyerson, the CEO of HSBC Australia Mr. Antony Shaw, the CEO of Kmart Mr. Ian Bailey, the CEO of Australian Fashion Council (AFC) Ms. Leila Naja Hibri, the CEO of Oxfam Australia Ms. Lyn Morgain, academicians and brand representatives shared their insights and we received a number of valuable comments and suggestions from them.
In the sideline of the Summit, we organized a ‘Product Showcase’ where 100+ selected garments made in Bangladesh were displayed in professional format. The product showcase was open for all the participants at the Summit and almost all who attended the event visited the presentation space, including buyers. For your kind information, BGMEA collected the dresses from its Member factories, curated and shipped those to Melbourne. The purpose was to give a real impression about Bangladesh’s RMG industry’s trajectory to high-end market segment.
Besides, an exclusive photo exhibition on Bangladesh was organized where we have displayed 20 selected photographs of Bangladesh, its nature, landscape and people. This has earned wide appreciation. The participants enjoyed the Bangladeshi delicacies served by MasterChef Australia Kishwar Chowdhury at the dinner. Ms. Kishwar prepared the entire menue by herself at the InterContinental Melbourne and she delivered her inspiration behind presenting Bengali dishes in local fusion to the guests during the dinner.
On the sideline of Summit, the BGMEA delegation has conducted several bilateral meetings with the Australian govt. representatives, brand, NGO, NRB, and some other important stakeholders. We are currently preparing a post Summit report which will be published in BGMEA’s Apparel Story, in next edition.
In addition to hosting the Bangladesh Apparel Summit, we took the opportunity to organize and attend a number of bilateral meetings, before and after the Summit. On 17 July, BGMEA delegation met with the top officials of Target Group to discuss about Target’s scope to further engage and collaborate with Bangladeshi suppliers and explore the potential to deepen the business ties, both in existing and new product categories. We have also had meeting with the Chief Executive of Oxfam where we discussed about how influential organizations like Oxfam and BGMEA can work together to ensure both- manufacturers get the right price from the brands and wellbeing and safety of the workers are ensured.
We availed the opportunity to meet Honorable Matt Burnell, Member of the Australian House of Representatives for the Division of Spence, and the Chair of Australia-Bangladesh Parliamentary Group on 19th July at a dinner at the residence of Bangladesh High Commissioner. We discussed a number of issues including continuing market access for Bangladesh, supply chain collaboration, i.e. import cotton and wool from Australia, and also to broaden the Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh. We invited Honorable MP to Bangladesh to see the progress along with his fellow members of the Bangladesh Parliamentary Group.
On 20th July we visited the Australia Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce (ABCCI) office in Canberra. We met its CEO Mr. Andrew McKellar and the Head of Business Development and International Affairs Chris Bames, and discussed how the chamber and BGMEA can collaborate to increase and complement bilateral trade between the two countries.
During our visit to Canberra, we also had a meeting with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) where Mr. Gary Cowan, First Assistant Secretary, North and South Asia Division, informed the BGMEA delegation of the Australian government’s decision of continuing duty-free market access for Bangladesh even after its LDC graduation.
We also had met with Mr. Daniel Boyer, Deputy CEO of Australian Trade and Investment Commission (AusTrade) in their Canberra office and had discussions about issues of mutual interests, including means of enhancing bilateral trade and investment by deepening cooperation between Bangladesh and Australia. They were keen to explore the potential of Australian cotton and wool in our apparel industry.
On 21st July, we met Australian Assistant Minister for Trade Senator Honorable Tim Ayres in Sydney. He reiterated that Australia would continue duty free facility for Bangladesh’s exports even after graduation out of LDC in 2026.
The BGMEA delegation attended a meeting jointly hosted by the Bangladesh High Commission to Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) in Sydney on 21st July. The meeting was attended by representatives from Australian brands and retailers, and ACCI members. This was also a significant gathering to present the progress our RMG industry has made and the prospect of enhancing trade.
The historical perspective of Bangladesh’s RMG industry reveals the significance of continuous improvisation, be it product, market, technologies, skills or responsible practices. Market exploration and promotion has also been a crucial success factors for us. Though our journey started with Europe and U.S.A., last year we exported around US$ 8.37 billion dollars worth of clothing to non-traditional markets, which only 849 million dollars in FY2008-09. Particularly in Australia our export reached US$ 1.16 billion, which was less than half a billion dollar ten years ago. So, the importance of market exploration, diversification, promotion, branding and image building of the industry cannot be overstated. We are glad to keep this endeavor continued which we started in 2010 through Scoping Mission to Latin America, and then to China, Japan, Russia, India and South Korea. We are also promoting middle east and Africa, and recently visited Saudi Arabia and Iraq. I will update you more on these in my next emails.