The RMG industry of Bangladesh has expanded dramatically over the last three decades. Traditionally, the jute industry dominated the industrial sector of the country until the 1970s. Since the early 1980s, the RMG industry has emerged as an important player in the economy of the country and has gradually replaced the jute industry. The “export-quota system”1 in trading garment products played a significant role in the success of the 1 Unilateral restriction, short-term arrangement (STA), long-term arrangement (LTA), Multifibre Arrangement (MFA) and finally the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) are the chronological steps through which the “export-quota system” was administered until it was finally abolished on 31 December 2004, making worldwide textile and garment trade quota-free. The system allowed importers to control the import of textile and garment products by imposing quantitative restrictions on exporting countries. For details on the system, see Agency for International Trade Information and Cooperation (1999); Hyvarinen (2000); Smith (1998); and Thongpakde and Pupphavesa (2000). industry. However, that quota system came to an end in 2004. Therefore, the competitiveness issue needs to be addressed, with special attention given to the long-term sustainability of the industry.The term “competitiveness” itself is a broad concept.Its meaning, implications,adaptation and achievement vary from firm to firm, industry to industry, or country to country. Michael E. Porter is a pioneer of the “competitiveness theory” (Porter, 1990) at the national or macro level (Cho and Moon, 2000). Firm/industry-level (micro level) competitiveness depends on various parameters. However, the literature provides no universal agreement on the definition of competitiveness. For example, some researchers consider the labour cost, unit cost, exchange rate, interest rate, prices of material inputs and other price- or cost-related quantitative factors for measuring the competitiveness of a manufacturing firm/industry (Edwards and Golub, 2004; Fukunishi, 2004; Cockburn and others, 1998; and Edwards and Schoer, 2002). Some other researchers consider product quality, innovativeness, design, distribution networks, after-sales service, transaction costs, institutional factors relating to the bureaucracy of export procedures and other non-price factors for measuring the competitiveness of a manufacturing firm/industry (Abdel-Latif, 1993; Chen and others, 1999; and Sachwald, 1994). The influences of both price and non-price factors on the competitiveness of a firm/industry are reflected by market share and profit (Toming, 2006). This study attempts to incorporate price, non-price and result (for example, market share) factors in order to address the international competitiveness of the Bangladesh RMG industry. The majority of the competitiveness-related research studies focus on the “competitive performance” or on the “factors influencing competitive performance”. The studies consider product price, market share and other indicators to measure competitive performance, while considering wages, costs, productivity and other issues as factors influencing competitive performance. However, Fujimoto (2001) puts special emphasis on the “capability”2 factor that influences the competitive performance of a firm. According to him, improvement in the “capability” of a firm enhances its “competitive performance”. This improvement takes time, but it ensures the long-term sustainability of a firm. In contrast, improving only “competitive performance” and not “capability” may not be sufficient to ensure the long-term development of the firm. This study addresses the competitiveness issue from two broader dimensions: surface-level and deep-level competitiveness.3 Surface-level competitiveness reflects the 2 “Capability” depends on organizational routine, managerial resources and knowledge held by an economic
agent (Fujimoto, 2001)....
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