Experts and business leaders on Wednesday urged the government to start an extensive preparation right now to secure GSP+ scheme in the European market to keep the country’s export unhurt due to the loss of trade benefits following the graduation from least developed country (LDC) status in 2026.
Formulation of a comprehensive transition strategy and starting negotiations are also needed for extension of existing trade benefits and availing special trade benefits in other markets, including China, Japan, Canada and India, they said.
Signing free trade agreements with major bilateral and multilateral trading partners is also important for Bangladesh to keep the country’s export unharmed, they said at a webinar on LDC graduation and GSP+ in EU organised by the Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Centre for Policy Dialogue distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya said that it was high time for Bangladesh to prepare itself for securing the GSP+ scheme in EU market as the European Commission was now working on the issue.
The commission will send the proposal related to GSP+ scheme to the European parliament by June and then it will be a challenging task for Bangladesh to convince the parliament which does not discuss any technical issues, rather concentrate on social, labour and governance issues, he said.
‘It is time for Bangladesh to have a cohesive, dynamic and inclusive transition strategy for the GSP+ scheme as well as link it up with other global initiatives, particularly taken by the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations,’ he said.
Policy Research Institute executive director Ahsan H Mansur said that gaining GSP+ benefit would be a contentious issue, not an easy one.
Compliance with labour and environment issues will be difficult tasks, he observed.
Stressing capacity development of the ministry in negotiation for benefits and signing FTA, he said that it was the weakest point right now.
Persuasive diplomatic initiatives along with substantive changes in some global conventions will be other important areas for securing the GSP+ scheme, he said.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association polls winning panel leader Faruque Hassan said that the country needed an immediate and mid-term strategy to remain competitive after graduation when the country would lose many of existing trade benefits, including duty-free export in EU market under everything but arms (EBA) scheme.
A total of 61 per cent of readymade garment export to EU market may come under new tariff regime after the graduation, he said.
Imposition of any tariff on the product in the market would take a severe toll on export earnings, he apprehended.
He stressed preparation of a strategy, capacity building and diplomatic engagement with EU seeking extension of EBA for 10 more years on ground of export and employment.
Former Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Md Fazlul Hoque said that the country should follow all-out efforts for GSP+ and for extension of EBA.
The government should lead the initiative and form a special committee with representatives from experts, think-tanks and business leaders to work on the issue, he said.
BGCCI president Omar Sadat stressed starting negotiations for FTAs with bilateral and multilateral trading partners to avoid severe consequences in export.
BGCCI executive adviser and chief executive officer Shahed Akhtar conducted the webinar.
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