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Experts call for pursuing post-graduation GSP+ facility


By BSS
Published : 17 Nov 2022 09:32 PM

Bangladesh should strive for availing GSP+ facility from the European Union (EU) after the withdrawal of duty-free and quota-free market access facility in the EU under the 'Everything but Arms (EBA)' scheme in 2029.

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

Policy makers and experts said this at the 'National Seminar on LDC Graduation' organized by the Support to Sustainable Graduation Project (SSGP) of the Economic Relations Division (ERD) held at a city hotel in the capital Thursday.

 Planning Minister MA Mannan spoke at the inaugural session of the seminar as the chief guest while State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md. Shahriar Alam attended the closing session as the chief guest. 

Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and the Chair of the National Committee on LDC Graduation Dr. Ahmad Kaikaus chaired both the opening and closing sessions of the event, said a press release. 

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

The Planning Minister 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.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs said that Bangladesh can become a bridge between the East and the West in the aftermath of LDC graduation. Dr Kaikaus said, "Bangladesh economy is a strong economy. And 

one of our greatest strengths is our huge domestic demand and supply." 

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

FBCCI President Md. Jashim Uddin said that LDC graduation had created increased opportunities of investment besides expanding the country's industrial base. 

ERD Secretary Sharifa Khan said that graduation would enhance the 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 at the closing session, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh 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 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 up gradation 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.

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.