Amid apprehension that the upcoming 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC) will not come up with a new declaration, Bangladesh is gearing up to strongly advocate for the implementation of previous declarations in support of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
“I am not sure if any new declaration will come at all from this conference as the US has already announced that it will not talk about the decisions taken at previous MCs,” Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said on Monday. “But we will try to negotiate tabling of those decisions for the sake of the LDCs.”
The minister spoke to reporters at his office in the Secretariat on Monday, where he discussed the upcoming biennial MC, the highest decision-making body of the WTO.
The conference, set to be attended by trade ministers and other senior officials from the organization's 164 members, is scheduled to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 10-13.
In the conference, the ministers broadly discuss a number of trade issues and usually come up at the end of the meeting with a new declaration for future direction.
Tofail Ahmed will lead the 25-member Bangladesh delegation that will include both government officials and representatives from think tanks and private sector businesses.
The commerce minister said even though many countries had already concentrated on bilateral, regional and sub-regional agreements, there were also political changes in the global arena that need to be taken into account.
He added that Bangladesh was also trying to sign the Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka and would push for it at the conference.
“Bangladesh will take position against the closure of subsidies in agriculture and fisheries, and support extending the transitional period for the LDCs to enhance capacity.
“We will also strongly negotiate some issues such as duty benefits, Rules of Origin, subsidies in the fisheries sector, waiver in service sector, e-commerce, investment and trade facilitation in the conference,” said the commerce minister.
Responding to a query, Tofail said they would discuss with the European Union the issue of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Plus facilities after it became a developing country by 2024.
He also expressed concern that the WTO had deviated from the principles it had been established on.
As per the WTO norms, he said, if LDCs suffer due to globalization and liberalization of trade, the developed countries are supposed to help them to recover by providing duty-free and quota-free market access. “But the developed countries have not done so.”
“As an LDC, Bangladesh enjoys duty-free market access to most of the countries, but our goods do not have that facility in the US,” Tofail said. “On the behalf of the LDCs, we will strongly raise the demand in the conference in Buenos Aires.”
The MC11 conference will be chaired by Susana Malcorra, former Argentine foreign minister. Argentina will be the first South American country to host the biennial event.