Focus on trade benefits as non-LDC

Bangladesh should negotiate at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, keeping in mind its transition from the group of least developed countries to a developing country, said yesterday a leading business analyst.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an important platform for participating nations to achieve preferential trade benefits through discussions and negotiations.

Bangladesh will likely be recommended by a UN committee for the end of the bloc in 2018, and could step out of the LDC group by 2024 if it can meet the requirements.

Once the country graduates, it could lose a special status in the trading system unless it successfully negotiates with key trading partners such as the European Union to retain the benefit for another three years.

"We must therefore keep in mind the non-LDC status during the negotiations of the WTO Ministerial Conference," said Professor Mustafizur Rahman, a prominent member of the Center for Policy Dialogue ( CPD).

He spoke at a discussion on the theme "Towards the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Meeting: Resumption of the Development Agenda" at the Lakeshore Hotel in Dhaka.

The CPD organized the discussion, which was attended by senior officials, businessmen, business analysts from across the country and abroad, experts and academics.

The Ministerial Conference, or CM 11, is scheduled to take place in the Argentine capital between December 10th and 13th.

Rahman called for raising the issue of preferential treatment to retain tariffs, rules of origin, subsidies in the fisheries sector, exemptions in the service sectors, electronic commerce and Investment and trade facilitation.

At the Ninth Ministerial Conference, a decision on fisheries subsidies, progress on public storage and the establishment of at least one e-commerce working group is scheduled, said Rahman in his keynote address.

"Bangladesh should remain engaged in these discussions and safeguard its interests by presenting proposals on special and differentiated provisions, technical support and aid for trade," he said.

The WTO Agreements contain special provisions that grant developing countries special rights and allow other members to treat them more favorably. These are the provisions on special and differential treatment.

Prof. Rehman Sobhan, chairman of the CPD, said the world has changed completely because of the economic changes taking place in the world.

Although global trade has slowed in recent years, trade growth in the Asian region has been robust.

The noted economist said that the developing world is now the driving force and that global trade is taking place in developing countries, specifically in Asian markets.

According to Professor Sobhan, 70% of global capital and services are located in the Asian region.

Located in Asia, Bangladesh is a potential and competitive trading partner worldwide. "This is not an accident," Sobhan said.

The Secretary of Commerce, Shubhashish Bose, said that the effectiveness of various WTO decisions was now in question. Nevertheless, LDCs need to discuss how they can benefit from the WTO multilateral trading system.

The LDCs and Bangladesh are also expected to discuss decisions of previous WTO ministerial meetings and new issues should be raised at the next three-day meeting, Bose said.

Abu Ahmed, Honorary Professor of Economics at the University of Dhaka, said that Bangladesh should not be limited to the WTO but make the most of the offers of different countries and blocks Regional Sales.

For example, he said that China had provided Bangladesh with benefits for about 5,000 products.

"Similarly, Bangladesh should explore business opportunities with Asian countries [Association for South and East Asian Nations] BCIM corridor [Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar] and the European Union."

Debapriya Bhattacharya, another prominent member of the CPD who moderated the discussion, said that Bangladesh should get rid of the obsession with duty-free and quotas.

He stated that the Doha Development Agenda should be continued and that Bangladesh should contribute to its implementation.

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