Bangladesh currently enjoys preferential trade facilities from the EU under the Everything but Arms (EBA) scheme of the GSP. However, the country will no longer be eligible for the trade facilities once it completes its expected graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status in 2024
The time has come to discuss Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) trade facilities with the EU, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Senior Secretary Shahidul Haque has said.
He added that the country’s economic zones will have to be revisited in the context of the GSP+.
The foreign secretary made the comments while addressing a symposium titled “Bangladesh–European Union Relations: Prognosis for the Future” as the chief guest. The symposium was organized by the Cosmos Foundation as part of its Ambassador Lecture series, at the Six Seasons Hotel in Dhaka on Saturday.
EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink, French Ambassador in Dhaka Marie-Annick Bourdin, and German Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Fahrenhollz also addressed the symposium, among others. Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, principal research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) of National University of Singapore, chaired the discussion, while Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan delivered the welcome address.
Bangladesh currently enjoys preferential trade facilities from the EU under the Everything but Arms (EBA) scheme of the GSP. However, the country will no longer be eligible for the trade facilities once it completes its expected graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status in 2024.
Describing the EU as the centrepiece of Bangladesh’s foreign policy, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said the relationship between the two is a mature and dynamic one.
“The EU is evolving, Bangladesh is evolving, and the relationship between us is also evolving,” he added.
EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink, keynote speaker at the symposium, appreciated Bangladesh’s economic development over the last decade, and said sustaining and accelerating this growth will be the real challenge for the government.
She further said Bangladesh would not be automatically eligible for GSP+, as the country will need to recognize and ratify 27 conventions on human rights, environmental and good governance standards.
"This is an important task. I think it would be good to prioritise this and set up relevant taskforce to establish a multi-annual reform action plan," Teernik said.
The EU envoy further said tangible progress has already been made in factory safety in Bangladesh, thanks to the joint efforts of Accord, Alliance, the Government of Bangladesh, and other partners. However, much more work needs to be done, especially in terms of freedom of association.
She also called for the Bangladesh authorities improve the business environment in the country, for ease of trade and investment. Key ministries should be given robust political authority to design, coordinate and implement policy reforms in this regard.
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Bangladesh Mia Seppo said: “LDC graduation will call for the redefinition of roles and responsibilities for all of us, including the UN. A country that has been in the past depending on aid will require changes in behaviour and policy after the aid is withdrawn.”
Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Dhaka Jeroen Steeghs echoed the UN resident coordinator in saying that Bangladesh will need to adapt to a lack of development assistance after graduation from LDC status, and capacity building needs to be emphasized.
The speakers also praised Bangladesh’s generous role in the Rohingya crisis.