WAMU 88.5 : The Kojo Nnamdi Show

Bangladesh: Cheap Clothes, Deadly Factories

The South Asian nation of Bangladesh has risen rapidly within the global garment industry to become the world's second largest exporter of clothing. European and American companies have been attracted by some of the lowest wages in Asia. But two recent deadly accidents in Bangladeshi factories -- including a building collapse that killed more than 300 people -- have raised questions about the true cost of cheap clothes. Kojo explores the global clothing economy.

Top 10 U.S. Textile Apparel Imports By Country (In Billions)

Country 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2011 2012
China 3.6 4.8 6.5 22.4 38.5 40.7 40.6
Vietnam 0.0 0.0 0.1 2.9 6.3 7.2 7.7
India 0.8 1.6 2.7 4.6 5.4 5.9 5.9
Indonesia 0.7 1.3 2.4 3.1 4.7 5.3 5.2
Mexico 0.7 3.0 9.7 7.3 4.5 4.8 4.6
Bangladesh 0.4 1.1 2.2 2.5 4.1 4.7 4.6
Pakistan 0.4 1.0 1.8 2.9 3.1 3.4 3.0
Honduras 0.1 0.9 2.3 2.6 2.4 2.6 2.6
Cambodia 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.7 2.2 2.6 2.6
El Salvador 0.1 0.6 1.6 1.7 1.7 1.8 1.9
Italy 1.0 1.5 2.1 2.1 1.4 1.6 1.7
Canada 0.5 1.7 3.4 2.8 1.4 1.5 1.4
Thailand 0.6 1.4 2.5 2.1 1.5 1.4 1.3
Philippines 1.1 1.7 2.3 1.9 1.1 1.3 1.2
South Korea 2.7 2.3 3.1 1.9 0.9 0.9 0.9
Taiwan 3.0 2.8 2.8 1.6 0.9 0.9 0.9
Dominican Republic 0.7 1.8 2.5 1.9 0.6 0.7 0.7
Hong Kong 3.8 4.4 4.7 3.6 0.2 0.2 0.2

(Credit: Office of Textiles and Apparel, U.S. Department of Commerce)

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