Dhaka, 04 June 2023: Bangladesh should pursue with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to be included in the list of net food-importing developing countries after LDC graduation to continue providing subsidies on agriculture exports, speakers said at a seminar in the capital today.

At the same time, the country should also develop export assistance schemes in compliance with WTO provisions, they said.

Support to Sustainable Graduation Project (SSGP) of the Economic Relations Division (ERD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) financed Bangladesh Trade Facilitation project jointly organized the seminar titled ‘Impacts of LDC Graduation on the Agriculture Sector and the Way Forward’.

Honorable Minister of Agriculture Dr. Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, MP graced the occasion as chief guest. Honorable State Minister of Planning Dr. Shamsul Alam was present as special guest. ERD Secretary Ms. Sharifa Khan chaired the event.

Speaking on the occasion, Honorable Agriculture Minister Dr. Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said that Bangladesh can mitigate the impact of LDC graduation through enhancing the production and quality of its agricultural products.

Hon’ble State Minister for Planning Dr. Shamsul Alam said the withdrawal of LDC specific facilities after LDC Graduation will create the compulsion for enhancing our internal capacities.

ERD Secretary Ms. Sharifa Khan, in her speech, put emphasis on policy continuity for maintaining the growth in agricultural sector. She also informed that the government is pursuing with WTO to be included in the list of net food-importing developing countries after LDC graduation.

Welcoming the participants to the seminar Mr. Farid Aziz, Additional Secretary of ERD informed that the government has taken various measures to ensure a smooth and sustainable transition from LDC status.

Chairman of Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) Dr. Mohammad A. Razzaque presented the keynote paper on the findings of the USDA financed study titled “Implications of LDC Graduation for Bangladesh’s Agricultural Exports: Issues and Policy Options.”

Dr. Razzaque noted that the average tariffs on Bangladesh’s agricultural exports might increase in major overseas markets after LDC graduation in the absence of Duty Free Quota Free (DFQF) facilities.

In this context, he put emphasis on proactive engagement with trading partners to negotiate extended preferences, enhancing the capacity of domestic firms, and reducing the cost of doing business to address the LDC graduation challenges.

As the domestic support provided for agricultural production is much lower than the allowable limit set by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the country will not face issues in widening the volume of domestic subsidy. However, cautioning that the country could face significant challenges in continuing targeted export incentives for agricultural products– Dr. Razzaque recommended that such subsidies be prudently categorized.

Former Member of Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) Dr. Mostafa Abid Khan delivered a presentation on “Bangladesh’s Obligation Under WTO Agreement on Agriculture: Before and After Graduation from LDC Status”.

Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries & Livestock Mr. Md. Tofazzel Hossain, Director of the Department of Agricultural Extension Mr. Md. Tajul Islam Patwary, Political and Economic Counselor of the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka Mr. Scott Brandon and Director of PRAN-RFL Group Ms. Uzma Chowdhury spoke as panelsists.

Speakers at the seminar observed that the government should continue its domestic support for agricultural production and export incentives under different schemes that are aligned with domestic demand and harmonized and compliant with the WTO after graduation.

They also called for improving the business environment and addressing the compliance issues in the agriculture sector.

The necessity of production subsidies in the context of climate change and vulnerability of poor and marginal farmers was also highlighted.

Mr. Michael J Parr, Project Director of the USDA financed Bangladesh Trade Facilitation Project mentioned in his vote of thanks that the USDA would provide necessary technical assistance to Bangladesh in facilitating agricultural trade through process simplification, management process automation, capacity building of food and chemical laboratories, and encouraging investment to improve the cold chain system.

Senior officials from government ministries, agencies and research institutions, representatives from development partners, agricultural and trade associations, and agribusinesses attended the seminar.