Friday March 23, 2018 07:05 AM

‘Bangladesh should pursue strategic coalitions at MC11’

‘Bangladesh should pursue strategic coalitions at MC11’

'Bangladesh should be ready for free trade dialogues with China and look into ASEAN, BICM and India. If anyone offers duty-free, quota-free market access for goods, we should accept it'

In the upcoming ministerial conference of World Trade Organization (WTO), Bangladesh must engage in negotiations on issues pertaining to its trade when it graduates to being a developing country, trade analysts said on Thursday.

In addition, the country should address its dual status as a lower middle-income country and a Least Developed Country (LDC), and focus on issues such as e-commerce, fisheries, agriculture, and waiver in service system, they added.

They made the comments during a discussion titled “Towards 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO: Reclaiming the Development Agenda (MC11)” organized by civil society think tank Centre For Policy Dialogue (CPD) in Dhaka. The biennial 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO is scheduled to be held in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, from December 10-13.

Addressing the discussion, CPD Distinguished Fellow Mustafizur Rahman said Bangladesh should take full advantage of the facilities it still enjoys as an LDC, but at the same time, the country should prepare for its post-LDC future.

“Bangladesh should pursue strategic coalitions and alliance building, concerning both specific and systematic issues,” he added.

“As Bangladesh aims to graduate to being a developing country by 2024, it should raise special and differential issues at MC11, such as duty benefits, Rules of Origin, subsidies in the fisheries sector, waiver in service sector, e-commerce, investment and trade facilitation in the ministerial conference, as these issues are going to be important in the post-LDC period,” he further said.

In the backdrop of the likely graduation scenario, Bangladesh should strive to build up partnerships and coalitions which will best serve not only its immediate needs, but also medium-term strategic trade, he added.

CPD Chairman Rehman Sobhan said the world had changed completely because of the economic change worldwide, and the developing world had become its driving force.

“Around 70% of the global capital and services are located in the Asian region. While global trade has been slowing down over the last few years, trade growth in Asia has been robust,” he said.

“Businesses are growing more in the Asian regions now, rather than in the Atlantic regions – which means the western world. Located in the Asian region, Bangladesh is a potential competitive trading partner in the global business world,” he added.

Commerce Secretary Shubhashish Bose said Bangladesh needed to discuss how the LDCs can benefit from the multilateral trading system under the WTO.

CPD Distinguished Fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya said Bangladesh should overcome its dependency on duty-free, quota-free market access, and in negotiations, it should focus on issues where it is making progress or has potential to make progress.

The country should also speak in favour of implementing the Doha Development Agenda, he added.

Prof Abu Ahmed, teacher of economics at Dhaka University, said Bangladesh’s economic growth might stall if it cannot tie up with the other economic powers.

“Bangladesh should be ready for free trade dialogues with China and look into ASEAN, BICM and India. If anyone offers duty-free, quota-free market access for goods, we should accept it,” he added.

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