Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Rwanda… Leoni Cuelenaere and her strong background now held the position of Ambassador to Bangladesh at The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Always there for helping the Bangladesh textile development, she knows all the secrets and players of this amazing industry. We definitely wanted her to take part of this first issue.

Mostafiz Uddin

 What do you like most about your position as Ambassador in Bangladesh?

It’s a great pleasure to be an ambassador of the Netherlands in Bangladesh. Relations between our countries are excellent, dynamic and all-encompassing.Traditionally, our relationship was based on development cooperation, but now that Bangladesh is moving towards middle-income status, our bilateral relations are being broadened and strengthened in the field of economic cooperation, investment and trade promotion. It is exciting to be part of this transition.What I like most about being ambassador in Bangladesh, however, is the contact with the Bangladeshi people. I have found the people of Bangladesh to be very friendly, welcoming and goodhearted.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities and challenges in the Bangladesh ready-made garment sector ?

After ‘Rana Plaza’ the RMG sector in Bangladesh has received a lot of negative publicity in western countries. The sector has come under immense scrutiny. Numerous initiatives have been taken to improve the compliance and competitiveness of the sector. Lilianne Ploumen, our minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, played a major role in uniting a wide range of stakeholders behind this cause. I would encourage Bangladeshi manufacturers to seize on this opportunity and to become the most transparent, competitive and compliant in the world. It is possible!

“I would encourage Bangladeshi manufacturers to seize on this

opportunity and to become the most transparent,

competitive & compliant.”

 In order to enhance the sustainability and profitability of the sector, the relationship between producers and buyers should be redefined. To support this development, our embassy held a conference in Dhaka in September last year on Sustainable Sourcing in the Garment Sector. Of course, the buyers have a responsibility here. Their key performance indicators shouldn’t focus so much on price.Other aspects, like environmental sustainability and the working conditions in factories, should be given greater weight. At the same time, producers should also critically rethink how they position themselves in the supply chain.All in all, closer and more transparent cooperation between manufacturers and buyers should result in smarter planning, more efficient processes, scope for reducing costs and sharing information with the entire value chain. More transparency should lead to greater mutual understanding and shared responsibility. As a follow-up to the Sustainable Sourcing conference, the International Apparel Federation is developing a course on collaborative sourcing for both buyers and producers active in Bangladesh.

And where do you see particularly the opportunities for the Bangladeshi denim manufacturing sector?

The denim sector is booming in Bangladesh. It’s encouraging to see that Bangladesh is rapidly developing its capacity for production of denim fabrics and finished denim products. A lot of innovation is happening in this sector. I hope denim producers from Bangladesh will keep innovating and keep developing exciting new products. Also, I would like to urge them to keep working on improving their compliance, for example with regard to the use and treatment of water and chemicals.There is huge potential for more cooperation between the Dutch and Bangladeshi denim sectors.As you know, the city of Amsterdam is the denim capital of Europe. It’s a hub for denim craftsmanship, enterprise, and sustainable innovation. Together, Dutch and Bangladeshi denim professionals have what it takes to take the industry to the next level.

 Have you visited Bangladesh Denim manufacturers, and if yes, how was the experience?

While I have seen quite a few RMG factories in Bangladesh, I haven’t had the opportunity to visit a denim factory yet. I have, however, participated in the Denim Expo a few times, so I’m aware of the latest trends and developments in the Bangladesh denim sector. I’m looking forward to the next edition of the Denim Expo on 17 and 18 May.

Do you have the opportunity to wear Bangladesh made denim?

Of course. I wear it with pride. M.U.

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