LDC graduation challenges needed more preparations

Speakers at a workshop on Saturday recommended inclusion of negotiations, alternative trade arrangements and enriching the competitive capacity as the possible strategies to address the LDC post-graduation challenges. They further said access to the international market is also an important one, which needs a well-structured strategic planning.

SANEM International Trade Centre, an economic think tank, organised the workshop styled “Emerging Trade Scenarios: Implications for Bangladesh” at its office, in the city. Speakers pointed out that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements have many important aspects for the country, such as flexibility, export subsidies for non-agricultural products, transition periods, trade related investment measures, agriculture, trade negotiations, technical assistance, addressing the graduation challenges and many more.

Professor Selim Raihan, a Dhaka University teacher and Executive Director, SANEM, Dr Zaidi Sattar, Chairman, Policy Research Institute, Md. Munir Chowdhury, Director General, WTO Cell, Ministry of Commerce, conducted different sessions in the workshop.In the opening session, Dr. Selim Raihan presented a paper on “Emerging Global Trade Scenarios: Challenges for Bangladesh.” He discussed five key aspects of the global trade scenarios, including the ongoing USA-China trade war.

He explained that the main objective of the institutions like GATT and WTO was to streamline the international trade and trade disputes. WTO has been more effective in dispute settlements than GATT until the unprecedented trade war between USA and China, he added.“It is not only affecting these two countries, but the entire global trade as well”, he said. “Countries like Bangladesh has been benefitted from increased globalization. Initially, GATT failed to attract developing countries like Bangladesh and India, as its core stakeholders were the comparatively rich countries”, he added.

Dr. Zaidi Sattar conducted the second session in the workshop on “Trade Policies of Bangladesh”. He mentioned that except the RMG sector, the country’s trade policy is not in a good shape due to lack of proper direction.“We cannot gain the desired outcome from exports if we don’t reform the incentive system in favour of exports. Our trade scenario is twisted by the excessive tariffs. Bangladesh’s tariff regime is still export-unfriendly,” he said.He further opined that VAT should not be a supplementary duty tax, rather it should to be a trade neutral duty, with 50% on the domestic products and the other 50% on the foreign products.

Success in the RMG sector have come after creating a free trade channel for exports. The tariff policy is somewhat flexible for the RMG sector in the country, Dr. Zaidi Sattar added.Md. Munir Chowdhury, DG, WTO Cell, emphasized on the difference in the LDC graduation between Bangladesh and other countries, due to Bangladesh’s huge population. He also talked about the graduation process and smooth transition strategies.

He discussed about the Istanbul Programme, which aims to enable half of the LDCs to meet the graduation criteria by 2020.“Bangladesh’s five year plans are well linked to this prospect of graduation. The graduation will attract a lot of foreign investments. But the challenges are the reduced benefits and credit worthiness of the country after the LDC graduation,” he said.

“Growth in our economy in terms of macroeconomic indicators is quite evident. However, there are doubts regarding the income distribution, trade and other aspects. We also lack efficient governance from our side.”He discussed some of the key Intellectual Property laws in Bangladesh as well, in which he thinks Bangladesh has to work more. According to him, graduation will have little impact on Bangladesh’s participation and contribution in WTO. Some small changes might be made in terms of the technical assistance.