U.S. retail group criticizes Bangladesh safety accord


A major U.S. retail trade group on Wednesday spoke out against a Bangladesh fire and building safety accord agreed to by mostly European companies, saying that signing on would expose American companies to a legally questionable binding arbitration provision.

"While the proposal put forth by the labor unions addresses a number of shared concerns, the accord veers away from commonsense solutions and seeks to advance a narrow agenda driven by special interests," Matthew Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation, said in a statement.

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Wednesday is the deadline for retailers to decide whether to join the consortium, led by labor groups such as Europe's IndustriALL, which said at least 24 garment and retail brands sourcing from Bangladesh had signed up so far. The world's two biggest fashion retailers, Spain's Inditex , owner of the Zara clothing chain, and Stockholm-based H&M have backed the accord.

Gap Inc said it would not join the European pact without changes to the way conflicts are resolved in the courts, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc said it did not plan to sign on because it believes that its own inspection plans will get faster results.

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago; Editing by Leslie Adler)