Dhaka, 17 November 2022: Bangladesh should strive for availing GSP+ facility from the European Union after the withdrawal of duty-free and quota-free market access facility in the EU under the ‘Everything But Arms (EBA)’ scheme in 2029– policy makers and experts said at a seminar in the capital today.    

At the same time, the country should also pursue with the WTO for the continuation of International Support Measures (ISMs) for six years after a country’s graduation from LDC status, they said.

Such observations came during the ‘National Seminar on LDC Graduation’ organized by the Support to Sustainable Graduation Project (SSGP) of Economic Relations Division (ERD) in the capital today.

Hon’ble Planning Minister Mr. Muhammad Abdul Mannan, MP was the chief guest of the inaugural session of the seminar. Honourable State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Md. Shahriar Alam, MP attended the closing session as the chief guest.

Principal Secretary to the Hon’ble Prime Minister and the Chair of the National Committee on LDC Graduation Dr. Ahmad Kaikaus chaired both the opening and closing session of the event.

Governor of Bangladesh Bank Mr. Abdur Rouf Talukder attended the inaugural session of the seminar as special guest. President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) Mr. Md. Jashim Uddin was the Guest of Honour of the session.

The hon’ble Planning Minister, in his speech, termed LDC graduation as an important milestone in Bangladesh’s development journey. He also observed that LDC graduation process would not only generate better strategies and action plans, but would also create a sense of ownership among all.

Honourable State Minister for Foreign Affairs, in his speech, said that Bangladesh can become a bridge between East and West in the aftermath of LDC graduation.

Principal Secretary to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, in his speech said, ‘Bangladesh economy is a strong economy. And one of our greatest strengths is our huge domestic demand and supply’.

Governor of Bangladesh Bank Mr. Abdur Rouf Talukder said that the enhanced capacity acquired through this graduation process would also enable us to attain our other national development goals, such as SDGs and Vision-2041.

FBCCI President Mr. Md. Jashim Uddin said that LDC graduation had created increased opportunities of investment, and expanding the country’s industrial base.

ERD Secretary Ms. Sharifa Khan said graduation would enhance our country’s image in the international arena, which would help to attract more FDI and expand the market for Bangladeshi goods and services.

While speaking as the Guest of Honour of the closing session, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Ms. Gwyn Lewis said that a well thought-out, consultative, time-bound, action-oriented, and implementable smooth transition strategy would be the key for ensuring a sustainable LDC graduation.

Bangladesh, as an LDC, is currently availing duty-free and quota-free market access in the European market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme of the EU. However, the country might not be able to avail this facility following a three years’ transition period after graduation.

In this context, speakers at the seminar called for pursuing GSP Plus facility in the EU market following the withdrawal of the DFQF facility in the EU market under the EBA scheme.

Speakers at the seminar also observed that the government should continue discussions with major preferential market access-providing countries, like Canada, Australia, Japan, etc. for EBA-like transition periods after the graduation.

Noting that Bangladesh with LDC Group has placed a revised submission in September 2022 before the WTO to extend the ISMs for 6 years after graduation, experts and policy makers opined that great persuasion is needed for adopting the WTO decision in favour of Bangladesh and other LDCs.

At the same time, efforts should be continued for signing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) or Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) for creating new market access opportunities, they said.

Experts also emphasized on enhancing the country’s competitiveness through increase in productivity; reduction of cost of production; reduction of time and cost of business transactions; and upgradation of technology.

They also accentuated the need for export diversification, improvement in trade facilitation measures and strengthening of the country’s Intellectual Property (IP) regime.

Noting that the government is currently working on developing a Smooth Transition Strategy to address the new dimensions to be created through LDC graduation– they observed that the strategy should be based on research and evidence.

The daylong seminar featured four working sessions. The first working session was themed on ‘Preferential Market Access and WTO Issues’. Honourable Commerce Minister Mr. Tipu Munshi, MP was the chair and moderator of the session. Deputy Head of Mission of the Delegation of the European Union in Bangladesh Dr. Bernd Spanier and the Chairman of Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) Dr. Mohammad Abdur Razzaque joined the session as panelists. Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce Mr. Tapan Kanti Ghosh was the keynote presenter of the session.

The second working session was themed on ‘Investment and Export Diversification’. Honourable Commerce Minister Mr. Tipu Munshi, MP was the chair and moderator of the session. Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr. Masud Bin Momen, President of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mr. Rizwan Rahman and the Country Economist of UNDP Bangladesh Dr. Nazneen Ahmed joined the session as panelists. Senior Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office Mr. Md. Tofazzel Hossain Miah was the keynote presenter of this session.

The third working session of the seminar was themed on ‘Intellectual Property Rights’. Honourable State Minister for Planning Dr. Shamsul Alam was the chair and moderator of the session. Director General of the WTO Cell of the Ministry of Commerce Mr. Md. Hafizur Rahman, President of Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries Mr. Nazmul Hassan, MP, and Senior Research Fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Dr. Kazi Iqbal joined the session as panellists. Secretary of the Ministry of Industries Ms. Zakia Sultana was the keynote presenter of the session.

The fourth working session was themed on ‘Tariff Rationalization and Domestic Resources Mobilization’. Chairman of the National Board of Revenue Mr. Abu Hena Md. Rahmatul Muneem and Distinguished Fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Professor Dr. Mustafizur Rahman were the panelists of the session. Senior Secretary of the Finance Division Ms. Fatima Yasmin was the keynote presenter of the session.

It is notable that Bangladesh has been recommended for LDC  graduation by the United Nations after fulfilling the relevant criteria twice. The country is expected to graduate from the LDC status in 2026 following a five years’ preparatory period mandated by the UN.

In this context, the seminar was organized for obtaining feedback from stakeholders on the process, progress and future actions of graduation; and for charting the next course of action for preparing an effective graduation strategy aiming smooth transition from LDC status.

Stakeholders from public and private sectors as well as research organizations participated in the seminar.