BD trade policy review ends at WTO

FE Report | Sunday, 7 April 2019

The fifth review of Bangladesh trade policy concluded at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva on Friday with a call to further liberalise the country's tariff regime.
Members participated in the two-day review meeting also urged Bangladesh to strictly implement multilateral rules of intellectual property rights (IPRs) gradually.
They also wanted to know about the preparation and strategies of the country to address different challenges likely to be emerged after the graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status by 2024.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi led a 16-member Bangladesh delegation at the review meeting. On the first session on Wednesday, he delivered the opening statement describing the latest development of Bangladesh's economy and also salient features of the trade policies. A WTO secretariat report on the trade policy of Bangladesh was also placed in the meeting.
Being the last trade policy review of Bangladesh as a LDC, a good number of questions from other members were focused on post-graduation challenges, said a delegation member while talking to the FE over telephone on Saturday.
"As Bangladesh is going to lose many trade preferences after the graduation, they wanted to know about our strategies to offset it," he said.
"Some members also wanted to know whether we are going to strengthen IPR rules and implement these strictly," he added. "We replied that as an LDC, there is still some flexibility in this regard. Nevertheless, Bangladesh is gradually improving its IPR regime."
Leading trade partners of Bangladesh like China, India and the United States (US) along with some other member countries took part in the discussion and raised a number of questions. Bangladesh received more than 150 advance written questions from these countries.
Trade policy review body chair Manuel A.J. Teehankee, also the Philippines Ambassador in WTO, summarised the meeting discussion in his concluding statement.
"Members stressed that in order to keep the growth momentum and address post-LDC graduation challenges, Bangladesh would have to engage further in ongoing reforms, which would enhance the diversification of its economy and the competitiveness of its industries, as well as improve its business environment and fiscal conditions," said the chair in his concluding statement.
"Despite praise for the use of mainly ad valorem tariff rates, some concern was raised regarding the overall gap between the simple averages of bound rates and MFN applied rates and lack of predictability that this gap could lead to," the statement added.
The average gap between applied and bound MFN tariff rates is currently 147.2 percentage points which indicates low predictability in the tariff.
Against the backdrop, the members requested Bangladesh to find ways to provide more certainty to importers and traders and consider taking tariff liberalisation action.
"Some members appreciated efforts in implementing the regulatory and institutional framework for competition policy as well as for strengthening its IPR protection legislation," said the statement.
Some members also wanted to know about the country's efforts to improve the workers' safety especially in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector as well as existing support to the textile and RMG sectors.
A number of them also raised questions on the climate change vulnerability, liberalisation of trade in services and challenges to the banking sector.
In general, according to the chair's statement, WTO members appreciated Bangladesh for implementing several policies, including Vision 2021 and 2041, the National Industrial Policy 2016, the Export Policy 2018-21 and for its efforts in areas of regulatory reform, taxation and improving its business environment, including One-Stop Shop (OSS) Act and promoting trade facilitation.
In his concluding statement, the commerce minister urged all to extend support for smooth graduation and achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Reaffirming the country's support on successful conclusion of Doha negotiation, Tipu Munshi also stressed on quick implementation of all the trade preferences, according to a press statement issued by the commerce ministry.
[email protected]