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Govt urges interest grs to join as EU conducts online survey

Deadline expires on June 03

JASIM UDDIN HAROON and REZAUL KARIM | May 23, 2020 00:00:00

The European Union is conducting an online survey to prepare a new trade benefit scheme for the poorer nations, including Bangladesh.

The objective of the survey is to assess whether countries like Bangladesh will continue to get the regional bloc's generalised system of preferences or GSP.

As a least-developed country or LDC, Bangladesh is a major beneficiary of the EU's external trade policy meant for the impoverished nations.

Over 60 per cent of Bangladesh's total merchandise exports is headed for the economic bloc.

The EU will prepare the new GSP under this survey, for which it started the process sometime in March. The survey will close on June 03.

The new GSP regulation will be effective from January, 2024.

The GSP facility was introduced in 1971. The rationale of it is to offer easier access to the EU market in order to promote sustainable economic, social and environment development in developing countries.

Officials at the ministry of commerce told the FE that this is an important survey for Bangladesh as it is happening at a time when the country will graduate from the LDC status.

They said ideally, Bangladesh is now eligible for the standard GSP, one of three existing facilities.

The other benefits are: GSP plus and everything but arms or EBA, of which Bangladesh is a beneficiary enjoying relaxed rules of origin or RoO.

The officials said if Bangladesh falls in the GSP standard, then it will face stiff competition from other LDCs and developing nations to have access to the EU market.

Bangladesh will not be placed in the GSP plus because its share in the EU is over three times. Currently, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are getting the facility to the EU.

The EU had revised the existing GSP in 2012.

An official at the ministry of commerce suggested Bangladesh should pursue relaxed rules of origin and extended time through the survey.

The EU will give three years more to Bangladesh after it graduates from the LDC club. If Bangladesh graduates in 2024, then it will get trade benefit to the economic bloc up to 2027.

The official said the stakeholders can appeal to the EU on the grounds of the pandemic.

If Bangladesh has to comply with standard rules of origin or 60 per cent value addition criterion, it will be difficult for the country to compete in the bloc, he argued.

"Bangladesh is graduating from the LDC status as a big economy and it may be another ground for appeal to the EU," he said wishing not to be named.

The graduated nations from the UN criterion are so far small economies, including the Maldives.

Meanwhile, the ministry of commerce organised a meeting on the issue a couple of days back.

It urged the stakeholders to participate in the survey within May 31. The ministry said that associations, labour organisations, think tanks and leading chamber bodies may participate in online survey.

This is an open online consultation of the EU and anybody can participate in it.

The World Trade Organisation cell and free trade agreement wing of the ministry will separately respond to the survey.

Local think tanks the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, the Centre for Policy Dialogue, SANEM and PPRC may join the online consultation with arguments.

The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry may join it to strengthen the voice of the country.

The meeting decided that all leading associations including the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association or BGMEA, the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association or BKMEA and the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association or BTMA should join the consultation within the May 31.

The meeting, presided over by additional secretary Obaidul Azam, also decided that labour organisations can also participate in it for the interest of the country.

Europe is the largest destination of Bangladesh's garment exports, with shipments amounting to US$ 22.85 billion during fiscal year 2018-19.

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