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Free Trade Agreement (FTA) of Bangladesh and its Roadmap (2021-Future)


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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/economy/bangladesh-prepares-to-face-challenges-after-transition-from-ldc-1625576226

 

Published:  July 06, 2021 18:57:06

Bangladesh prepares to face challenges after transition from LDC

Bangladesh is focusing on bilateral free and preferential trade deals as a strategy to overcome the possible losses of global trade concessions after its graduation to a developing economy.

Studies on the feasibility of signing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) with a number of countries have been completed, according to an official document.

The countries and organizations include Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and Eurasian Economic Commission.

The possibility of Bangladesh signing such trade agreements with China, Myanmar, Nigeria, Mali, Macedonia, Mauritius, Jordan, USA, Iraq and Lebanon is also being explored, reports UNB.

Meanwhile, a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Bangladesh and India is also on the anvil.

Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI) and Indian Foreign Trade Institute are preparing a report on a joint study on CEPA.

The CEPA is a bit different from FTAs as it covers a lot of issues such as trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights and e-commerce.

Bangladesh has signed a bilateral PTA with Bhutan on December 6, 2020. Under the agreement, 34 Bhutanese products will get duty-free access to the Bangladeshi market and 100 Bangladesh products to get similar access to Bhutan.

The commodities from Bangladesh include baby clothes and clothing accessories, men's trousers and shorts, jackets and blazers, jute and jute goods, leather and leather goods, dry cell battery, fan, watch, potato, condensed milk, cement, toothbrush, plywood, particle board, mineral and carbonated water, green tea, orange juice, pineapple juice, and guava juice

The 34 products from Bhutan that will get duty-free access to the Bangladesh market include orange, apple, ginger, fruit juice, milk, natural honey, wheat  flour, homogenized preparations of jams, fruit jellies, marmalades, food preparations of soybeans, mineral water, wheat bran, quartzite, cement clinker, limestone, wooden particle boards, and wooden furniture.

Both the countries will be able to increase the number of items gradually through consultation.

PTA negotiations with Nepal are at the final stage.

Significant progress has also been made in formal talks aimed at signing a bilateral PTA with Indonesia.

Work on a joint study aimed at conducting a free trade agreement with Sri Lanka is at the final stage.

In addition, to increase competitiveness in exports, the document mentioned that the government has continued to provide export incentives to 36 products as in the previous fiscal year.

The government has identified 17 products to boost exports in the aftermath of the epidemic, which is expected to play a strong role in sustaining export growth after Bangladesh’s transition from the least developed countries in 2026.

To reduce the trade deficit, the document said, measures are being taken to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers by executing bilateral trade agreements.

Such agreements have already been signed with 44 countries.

Bangladesh, as per the rules and regulations of World Trade Organization (WTO), might lose some of its businesses as it will graduate from the LDC status.

Bangladesh will formally graduate to middle income country from the LDC status in next three years.

But it will continue to get some global trade concessions until 2027 as a three-year grace period will be added.

As a result, from 2027 the duty facilities the country gets from WTO in import and export might be stopped.

To avert the tough economic situation of the middle income country status Bangladesh has started its initiatives to avoid the middle income country status trap.

Meanwhile, the EU has urged Bangladesh to improve labor standards for the continuation of the GSP. The bloc will review the current GSP in 2023.a

Bangladesh's GSP status to the EU will end in 2024. The EU, however, will continue the same up to 2027 under a three-year grace period.

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/trade/bangladesh-needs-to-focus-on-export-preferences-in-eu-market-after-ldc-graduation-1627365845

Bangladesh needs to focus on export preferences in EU market after LDC graduation

 FE REPORT | Published:  July 27, 2021 12:04:05 | Updated:  July 27, 2021 12:48:21

Bangladesh should focus on export preferences in the European Union market following its graduation from the least-developed country (LDC) status, discussants at a webinar said.

As the country would not be able to increase its competitiveness immediately, they said, it should concentrate on negotiations to continue with the existing preferences for some more time after its graduation.

As an LDC, Bangladesh currently enjoys duty-free access to the EU under the 'Everything but Arms (EBA)' initiative, with around 61 per cent of its yearly exports destined for the region.

The speakers also emphasised establishing more fashion-design institutes, raising competitiveness by increasing productivity and reducing cost of production, improving business climate and trade facilitation system, upgrading hard and soft business infrastructure, encouraging linkage industries and establishment of special economic zones and active pharmaceutical ingredient park for smooth transition of Bangladesh from LDC status by 2026.

They said permanent graduation from the LDC status would amount to recognition of the real development of the country and the living standards of people, although Bangladesh would face multiple challenges.

The observations and recommendations were made during the webinar styled 'LDC Graduation: Challenges and Opportunities' hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB).

Speaking as the chief guest, planning minister MA Mannan said the country's graduation from the LDC status remains to be a beautiful journey.

"Bangladesh should have been here long before, we are late," he mentioned.

Speaking as a panelist, Apex Footwear Limited managing director Syed Nasim Manzur said what is critically important is that the EU is the single largest destination of Bangladesh exports.

"Hence, maintaining preferences in the EU market should be the number-one priority," he suggests.

Sharifa Khan, member (secretary), industry and energy division under Planning Commission, says the government is serious about free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries as part of post-graduation measures.

"But we have to be very cautious about FTA. We conducted studies and found FTA is not an answer to all questions."

ICAB president Mahmudul Hasan Khusru said both public and private sectors should brace for the post-LDC graduation challenges.

The government is developing 100 special economic zones and more than two dozen hi-tech parks to meet the demand of investors.

"The Bangladesh Investment Development Authority comes forward to providing one-stop service to investors," Mr Khusru said, adding the country should opt for bilateral free trade deals to gain export momentum.

ICAB past president Md Humayun Kabir presided over the webinar as the session chairman.

ICAB CEO Shubhashish Bose, also a former senior secretary of the government, presented a keynote paper.

Mostafa Abid Khan, member, Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission, BSRM chairman Ali Hussain Akber Ali and FBCCI adviser Monzur Ahmed were panel speakers of the virtual programme.

In his keynote, Mr Bose suggested getting GSP+ facility from the EU to face the post-LDC challenges and to minimise negative impacts on trade.

He also recommended enhancing market access of the country's products and services through FTA/RTAs with potential trading partners, and diversifying products and markets.

Mr Bose suggested exploring untapped potential where structural constraints, either at production level or in the area of management of compliance, are required.

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3 hours ago, Patriot_68 said:

Vietnam has already signed FTA with the EU and India is in line. We need to do something sooner than later  

FTA negotiation takes longer than we expected in Bangladesh's case. Let us wait and see what happens after exiting LDC. 

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https://www.tbsnews.net/dropped/trade/bangladesh-yet-tap-22bn-export-potentials-283639

Jasim Uddin & Reyad Hossain

04 August, 2021, 10:55 pm

Last modified: 05 August, 2021, 09:26 am

Bangladesh yet to tap $22bn export potentials

The LDC graduation might put Bangladesh in a more vulnerable position following a loss of duty-free benefits

export_potential_of_bangladesh_by_produc

 

At a time when Bangladesh's single-product export base is struggling to cope with the global market vulnerability amid the pandemic, studies show a ray of hope that the country could earn $22 billion more annually if liberal market access could be utilized with diversified items.

Europe, the Americas, Japan and China are among the potential markets for the additional amount, which is more than half of the country's current export earnings.

The Economic Relations Division (ERD), in a study, finds that $18.34 billion worth of export potentials remain unexplored in the top ten export destinations, while another study of the Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) says there is a scope of at least $4 billion in export earnings from China alone.

Experts say every country except for the US is offering duty-free access for Bangladeshi products to its market, but Bangladesh cannot cash in on it in the absence of necessary initiatives of the government and the private sector.

Besides, the country is losing its competitive edge in global trade because of an overdependence on a single product and inadequate measures to ensure standards certification, they add.

export_potential_of_bangladesh_by_produc

The LDC graduation might put Bangladesh in a more vulnerable position following a loss of duty-free benefits, they also say.

Exporters and economists identify two main reasons for the country's failure to tap the unexplored potentials in top export destinations. The first one is the non-diversification of the country's export basket, and secondly, an inability to maintain the quality of products. A lower inflow of foreign direct investment is also hurting its trade potential. 

They also say the readymade garment sector apart, other sectors are not getting the kind of attention they need. As a result, the country cannot exploit the potential of exporting leather products, plastics, jute products, agricultural products, home textiles, frozen fish and many more.

 

In the last fiscal, no sectors other than agriculture, home textiles and jute goods alongside the major contributor, the RMG sector, hit the 1$ billion mark in export earnings.

According to the ERD report, only six export sectors - RMG, leather, pharmaceuticals, plastics, footwear and shrimp have the potential to bag $18.34 billion more, while their current export earnings stand at $31.21 billion.

On the other hand, apparel exporters claimed that the RMG sector has the potential to add another $20 billion to its current contribution through producing human-made fibre-based products for the current buyers and existing markets.

They are working with the government to set up an innovation centre to diversify products, they added.

The government has also offered a tax holiday facility for bringing in investment in the human-made fibre industry from FY21.

Besides, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has also been working with the government and leather, plastics and light engineering sector entrepreneurs to diversify the export basket and enhance their competitiveness in the export market.

Leather sector entrepreneurs say they will not be able to explore the global market without the Leather Working Group (LWG) certification for the Savar leather industrial park.

The ERD study styled "In the shadow of the pandemic: Implication and required action" has found that Bangladesh has failed to grab the potentials of the top ten export destinations, even though in some markets, half of the opportunity has remained untapped. 

The estimations carried out by Professor Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), indicates that Bangladesh has significant untapped potentials both in terms of markets and products. 

The study also mentioned that towards sustainable graduation, both domestic measures and international support will be required to realise these potentials.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), only the apparel sector has been contributing about 81% to export earnings although Bangladesh exports a total of 31 types of products to over 200 countries across the world.

According to the study, Bangladesh has a scope to export an additional $3.2 billion worth of goods to the US market beside the current $6.3 billion.

Exporters said exports to the market are not growing mainly because of some tariff barriers.

The data also indicates that in key markets, Bangladesh's competitive edge is being gradually eroded even in the particular case of its dominant apparel sector. 

For example, China in the US market is being increasingly taken over by Bangladesh's competitors such as Vietnam and Cambodia, the report said.

The ERD study also mentioned that Bangladesh has the scope to increase its export volume by another $3.6 billion to Germany, $2.2 billion to the UK, $1.7 billion to Spain, $1.9 billion to France, $1.2 billion to Poland, $1.3 billion to Italy, $1.6 billion to the Netherlands, $500 million to Canada and $800 million to Japan.

Evaluating trade gap data, the study also said within the existing top six export items, apparel products have the potential to export over $17 billion more.

Besides, footwear, plastics, pharmaceuticals, leather and shrimp sectors are yet to exploit $1.29 billion of export potential.

The country is on the path of returning to normalcy after a pandemic-hit period, with its exports raking in $38.75 billion in FY21, recording a growth rate of 15.10%. The growth is riding on RMG export recovery, which earned $31.45 billion showing a 12.55% growth, according to the EPB.

Dr M Masrur Reaz, chairman of the Policy Exchange Bangladesh and former senior economist at World Bank Group, said, "We cannot supply products as per the global market demands. Our earnings from other sectors apart from the RMG sector is very low. We could export footwear items to Japan, but we do not have quality products."

There is a huge potential for agricultural products, but the sector's contribution is only about 2.5%, he said adding, "We are unable to capitalise on the potential because of low food and phytosanitary standards."

The country needs to acquire sample certification from Singapore. Many countries have a mutual recognition agreement to facilitate this, but Bangladesh has no such deal with any country, he also said.

The global market for halal food amounts to $2.4 trillion. "Our exports to this market are almost zero as we do not have a halal certification system. Similarly, we are not able to export light engineering products as per the standards of European and US markets," Masrur said.

"We cannot sell products at competitive prices because our productivity is relatively low and inland logistics cost is high, which eats up a big part of the whole. Bangladesh is one of the worst performers in providing logistics support."

Raw materials meant for many products are import-dependent. Raw materials for readymade garments can be imported without paying duty under the bond facility. But other products are deprived of such an advantage, he said.

"We need to sign Free Trade Agreement and Preferential Trade Agreement with different countries, but we do not have any such deal with anyone except Bhutan," he added.

The country could get an advantage in lead time too in a huge market like China. But there is not much attention to it, he pointed out.

World's top exporting country China imports more than $2.5 trillion worth of goods a year. Although Bangladesh's bilateral trade with China is more than $14 billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, according to Chinese customs data, also mentioned by the Chinese ambassador, Bangladesh exported only $680 million worth of goods to the country, of which 40% was readymade garments.

However, China has been providing duty-free access to most of Bangladesh's products under LDC since 2011. And from 1 July last year, this zero tariff facility has been extended to a total of 8,256 products.

Research conducted recently by a team of three researchers headed by Dr MA Razzaque, chairman of Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID), showed that Bangladesh's exports to China should be at least $4 billion. It also showed that Bangladesh could not harness even 30% of its export potential in the Chinese market.

Exporters and experts say the kind of public-private initiative needed to capture the Chinese market is simply not there. The BKMEA attended a fair in China in 2005, but there was no more participation after that.

Citing the example of one of his own buyers, BKMEA First Vice President Mohammad Hatem said the buyer had spoken to him about an order for a garment made of a combination of nylon and polyester, but he could not take it because they did not make that type of garment.

Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Bangladesh's former ambassador to China and former chairman of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), told The Business Standard that China has given Bangladesh many opportunities. "But if we can't make what they need, then exports can't be increased. We also do not have an organised study on how to increase exports to China."

He also said, "The spare parts of the products that China is making are being made in other countries. We are not looking there."

Echoing Faiz, Dr Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute, said, "All our export products are basically finished goods. We are not able to take advantage of the possibility of exporting such parts as intermediate goods. China imports spare parts for many products from abroad and Bangladesh could be part of that supply chain."

Besides, the obligation to add 40% value to local products for exports to the Chinese market is one of the obstacles to increasing exports to the country, said Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

Apart from this, the gradual reduction in tariffs for other exporters to China under MFN (Most Favoured Nations) has created more competition for Bangladesh, said Dr Mostafa Abid Khan, an international trade expert and former member of the Tariff Commission.

In 2011 when most of Bangladesh's products enjoyed duty-free access to the Chinese market, other countries had to pay 16% duty. But under the MFN, China has gradually reduced tariffs for those countries to about 6% in 2018, which means Bangladesh's preference margin in the Chinese market has decreased, exposing the country to stiff competition, he observed.

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https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2021/08/14/plans-afoot-to-transform-bangladesh-s-economy-in-view-of-ldc-graduation

Plans afoot to transform Bangladesh’s economy in view of LDC graduation

 UNB

 Published at 12:59 am August 14th, 2021

Bangladesh has already qualified for graduation from a least developed country to a developing country

The government has taken structural transformation of the economy as a priority agenda for the coming days to maintain its position among the developing countries and become a higher middle-income country by 2031 defying all the hurdles of the post-LDC era.

"We, therefore, need to accelerate this structural transformation of the economy," the government said in an official budget document.

To this end, the government will provide necessary financial assistance for the implementation of some activities.

These are -- mechanization of agriculture, development of the agro-processing sector, skill development and productivity enhancement, and expansion of training and education related to 4th Industrial Revolution.

The government will also provide necessary financial assistance for the encouragement of online-based outsourcing work, self-employment/creation of new entrepreneurs, and encouragement of basic and practical research at the university level.

It said that the country has been gradually moving from an agro-based economy to a manufacturing-based economy following the pursuit of effective government policies and strategies during the last 12 years.

Therefore, the document said, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP has been gradually declining and the desired structural transformation is taking place in the economy.

It mentioned that Bangladesh has already qualified for graduation from a least developed country to a developing country.

"To maintain its position among the developing countries and become a higher middle-income country by 2031, we need a strong industrial and manufacturing sector, which will help sustain high economic growth."

According to the United Nations Committee for Development Policy (UNCDP) recommendation, Bangladesh's transition will be effective in 2026. It means until 2026, Bangladesh will be able to enjoy all the benefits applicable to LDCs.

However, under the current rules, Bangladesh will be able to enjoy duty-free and quota-free market access for another three years, i.e. until 2029, after entering the EU market.

Meanwhile, the government is preparing a detailed action plan for supporting the country's export competitiveness to maintain its position in the world market as well as improving further in the post-LDC era.

The plan, which is being prepared by the Economic Relations Division, will incorporate all necessary strategies in the 8th Five Year Plan for the purpose.

Bangladesh will have at least five years to deal with the challenges of transitioning from a least developed country to a developing country.

The UNCDP upon the request of the government has recommended that against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, the preparation period for the transition will be five years instead of three. During this period, that is, until 2026, all international facilities will continue.

The LDC Group of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has put forward a proposal to ensure that all trade facilities pertaining to LDCs remain in force for another 12 years after transition.

Bangladesh has actively participated in this process, and is continuing its efforts to get this proposal accepted.

The document said that the government has already taken steps to avail the advantages of GSP+ in EU countries after graduation.

Meanwhile, the government has taken various steps to address the challenges that Bangladesh will face as a result of its graduation from an LDC.

The government has taken multiple steps to increase the overall competitiveness of the country's trade and commerce to survive in the international market by competing with products from other countries.

Moreover, the government has taken effective steps to improve its ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index to increase the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI).

The benefits of these steps are becoming evident, the document reads.

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/bn/মুক্ত-বাণিজ্য-চুক্তির-বৈশ্বিক-প্রবণতা-1629110748

মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তির বৈশ্বিক প্রবণতা

 মো. জুলফিকার ইসলাম | Published:  August 16, 2021 16:45:49

বাণিজ্য সম্প্রসারণের সঙ্গে একটি দেশের অর্থনৈতিক উন্নয়নের ওতপ্রোত সম্পর্ক বিদ্যমান। বাণিজ্য সম্প্রসারণে বিভিন্ন দেশ প্রধানত মুক্ত বাণিজ্য অঞ্চল (ফ্রি ট্রেড এরিয়া), শুল্ক সংঘ (কাস্টমস ইউনিয়ন), অভিন্ন বাজার (কমন মার্কেট) এবং অর্থনৈতিক ইউনিয়ন (ইকনোমিক ইউনিয়ন)- এই চারভাবে একে অপরের সঙ্গে যুক্ত হচ্ছে । এজন্য তারা দ্বিপাক্ষিক, আঞ্চলিক অথবা বহুপাক্ষিক বাণিজ্য চুক্তি সম্পাদন করছে। এই চুক্তিসমূহের বেশিরভাগই মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি (এফটিএ)। বাংলাদেশ স্বল্পোন্নত দেশ (এলডিসি) হিসেবে উন্নত দেশগুলোর কাছ থেকে শুল্কমুক্ত ও কোটামুক্ত বাণিজ্যসুবিধা,  জিএসপি সুবিধা প্রভৃতি গ্রহণ করেছে যা বাংলাদেশের রপ্তানি সম্প্রসারণে প্রধান ভূমিকা রেখেছে। তবে ২০২৬ সালে এলডিসির কাতার থেকে উত্তরণের মধ্য দিয়ে এই সুবিধাগুলো হারাতে হবে। তাই বাণিজ্য সম্প্রসারণের অন্যান্য উপায় বিশেষ করে অগ্রাধিকারমূলক বাণিজ্য চুক্তি (প্রেফারেনশিয়াল ট্রেড এগ্রিমেন্ট) ও  মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি সম্পর্কে আলোচনা, গবেষণা ও কাজ শুরু হয় গেছে।

মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি : বিশ্ববাণিজ্য সংস্থার (ডব্লিউটিও) নিয়ম অনুযায়ী মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি হলে সদস্য দেশের মধ্যে পণ্য বাণিজ্যের ক্ষেত্রে প্রায় সকল পণ্যের উপর কর বা শুল্ক এবং অন্যান্য বিধিনিষেধ অপসারণ করা এবং সেবা বাণিজ্যের ক্ষেত্রে এর সদস্য দেশের সেবা সরবরাহকারীদের প্রায় সকল বৈষম্য অপসারণ করতে হয়। পণ্য বাণিজ্যের ক্ষেত্রে বিশ্ব বাণিজ্য সংস্থার গ্যাট (জেনারেল এগ্রিমেন্ট অন ট্যারিফস অ্যান্ড ট্রেড) ২৪ অনুচ্ছেদের এবং সেবার ক্ষেত্রে গ্যাট ২৫ অনুচ্ছেদের আওতায় নির্ধারিত প্রক্রিয়ায় মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি সম্পাদিত হয়। মুক্ত বাণিজ্যের প্রধান প্রচারক দেশ যুক্তরাষ্ট্র সরকারের সংশ্লিষ্ট ওয়েবসাইটে বলা হয়েছে যে তাদের মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তিসমূহের উদ্দেশ্য হচ্ছে যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের রপ্তানির ক্ষেত্রে প্রতিবন্ধকতা হ্রাস করা, বিদেশে প্রতিযোগিতার ক্ষেত্রে যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের স্বার্থ রক্ষা এবং মুক্ত বাণিজ্যের অংশীদার দেশ বা দেশসমূহে আইনের শাসন শক্তিশালী করা । 

এফটিএর ইতিকথা: ১৬ শতক থেকে ১৮ শতক পর্যন্ত ইউরোপীয় শক্তিধর দেশগুলো বেনেবাদী (মার্কেন্টাইলিস্ট) মতবাদ দ্বারা পরিচালিত হতো। তাদের প্রধান চিন্তা ছিল অনুকূল বাণিজ্য ভারসাম্য  বা বাণিজ্য উদ্বৃত্ত অবস্থা যেখানে রপ্তানি বেশি থাকবে, আমদানি কম থাকবে। তখন বাণিজ্য চুক্তিকে নিরুৎসাহিত করা হতো। শুল্ক এবং কোটাব্যবস্থার মাধ্যমে দেশীয় শিল্পকে সংরক্ষণ করা হতো। উদাহরণস্বরূপ, ব্রিটিশ নেভিগেশন অ্যাক্ট ১৬৫১ এর কথা বলা যায়। এই আইন অনুযায়ী কোনো বিদেশী জাহাজ ব্রিটেনের সমুদ্রতীরবর্তী অঞ্চলে ব্যবসা করতে পারতো না । আমদানি করতে হলে ব্রিটিশ জাহাজ ভাড়া করতে হতো অথবা যে দেশে পণ্য উৎপাদিত হয়েছে সেই দেশে জাহাজটি নিবন্ধিত হতে হতো। অন্যদিকে বাংলায় ব্রিটিশ ইস্ট ইন্ডিয়া কোম্পানি প্রায় শুরু থেকেই শুল্কমুক্ত বাণিজ্য সুবিধা দাবি করে আসছিল । ১৭১৭ সালে মুঘল বাদশাহ ফররুখশিয়ারের নিকট থেকে বার্ষিক মাত্র তিন হাজার ৩০০০ রুপির বিনিময়ে শুল্কমুক্ত বাণিজ্য সুবিধা আদায় করতে সমর্থ হয়।

অর্থনীতিবিদ অ্যাডাম স্মিথ (১৭২৩-১৭৯০) এবং ডেভিড রিকার্ডো (১৭৭২-১৮২৩)’র মুক্ত বাজার অর্থনীতি ও দেশসমূহের তুলনামূলক সুবিধা তত্ত্বের কারণে এই চিন্তায় পরিবর্তন আসে। সোনা, রূপার আধিক্য দিয়ে দেশের সম্পদ পরিমাপ না করে মানুষের জীবনমান দিয়ে পরিমাপ করার বিষয়টি সামনে আসে। তখন আমদানি বৃদ্ধির ব্যাপারটিও সামনে আসে। ১৮২৩ সালে ”রেসিপ্রোসিটি অব ডিডউটিজ অ্যাক্ট” এর মাধ্যমে দেশসমূহের মধ্যে দ্বিপাক্ষিক বাণিজ্যের ক্ষেত্রে আমদানি শুল্ক হ্রাসের অনুমতি দেয়া হয়। ১৮৫০ সালের মধ্যে ভুট্টা আইনসহ অনেক সুরক্ষামূলক নীতি বর্জন করা হয়। এরপর ব্রিটেন ও ফ্রান্সের মধ্যে ‘কবডেন-শ্যাভালিয়ের ট্রিটি’ হয় যার মধ্যে মোস্ট ফেভারড নেশন (এমএফএন) ধারাও ছিল- অর্থাৎ একদেশকে যে সুবিধা দেয়া হবে তার বাণিজ্যিক অংশীদার দেশগুলোকেও সেই সুবিধা প্রদান করতে হবে। এখানে বৈষম্য করা যাবে না। এর ফলে ইউরোপে আরও এমন বেশ কিছু চুক্তি হয় যার মাধ্যমে বহুপাক্ষিক বাণিজ্য উদারীকরণ ও মুক্ত বাণিজ্যের সূচনা হয়। এরপর অবশ্য বহু উত্থান পতনের মধ্য দিয়ে মুক্ত বাণিজ্যের ধারণা বিবর্তিত হয়। ১৮৭৩ সালে ইউরোপে মন্দা দেখা দেয়। তখন সুরক্ষাবাদী নীতি গ্রহণ করে দেশগুলো। এই প্রবণতা চলে প্রথম বিশ্বযুদ্ধ পর্যন্ত।

দেশগুলোর উগ্র জাতীয়তাবাদী মনোভাব এবং যুদ্ধের পর অর্থনৈতিক দুরবস্থার কারণে বাণিজ্য উদারীকরণের প্রক্রিয়া বাধাগ্রস্ত হয় । ১৯২৭ সালের প্রথমবারের মতো বিশ্ব অর্থনৈতিক সম্মেলন অনুষ্ঠিত হয় লীগ অব নেশনস এর উদ্যোগে। কিন্তু ১৯৩০ এর মহামন্দার কারণে এই উদ্যোগের সুফল পাওয়া যায়নি। দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধের পর ১৯৪৪ সালে ব্রেটন উডস চুক্তি এর মধ্য দিয়ে বিশ্ব ব্যাংক, আন্তর্জাতিক মুদ্রা সংস্থা (আইএমএফ) ও আন্তর্জাতিক বাণিজ্য সংস্থা (আইটিও) প্রতিষ্ঠিত হয়। এরপর আইটিও-র বদলে ১৯৪৭ সালে যাত্রা শুরু করে গ্যাট (জেনারেল এগ্রিমেন্ট অন ট্যারিফস অ্যান্ড ট্রেড)। এর মধ্য দিয়ে পুনরায় বিভিন্ন আঞ্চলিক ও বহুপাক্ষিক চুক্তি হওয়া শুরু হয়। দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধের পর শিল্পোন্নত দেশগুলোর গড় শুল্ক ১৯৪৬ সালে ৪০ শতাংশ থেকে ১৯৯০ এর দশকে ৫ শতাংশে নেমে আসে। বাণিজ্য উদারীকরণের এই উদ্যোগ বৈশ্বিক রপ্তানি বৃদ্ধি করেছে এর ফলে ১৯৫০ থেকে ১৯৯৭ সাল পর্যন্ত বৈশ্বিক রপ্তানি প্রায় ১৪ গুণ বৃদ্ধি পেয়েছে।

আনুষ্ঠানিকভাবে প্রথম মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি হলো ইউরোপীয়ান ফ্রি ট্রেড অ্যাসোসিয়েশনস (ইএফটিএ) যার যাত্রা শুরু ১৯৫৯ সালের ১৪ নভেম্বর আইসল্যান্ড, লিকটেনস্টেইন, নরওয়ে ও সুইজারল্যান্ড এই চারটি দেশের সমন্বয়ে। এটা স্টকহোম কনভেনশনের উপর ভিত্তি করে হয়েছিল যাদের উদ্দেশ্য ছিল সদস্য দেশসমূহের মধ্যে শুল্ক হ্রাস, কোটা ব্যবস্থার উদারীকরণ, কৃষি পণ্যের বাণিজ্য উদারীকরণ প্রভৃতি। এরপর ৮০’র দশকে তৎকালীন ইউরোপীয় ইউনিয়নের সঙ্গে ইএফটিএ’র সদস্য দেশসমূহের সঙ্গে আলাদা মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি হয় । ১৯৯২ সালে উত্তর আমেরিকা মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি (নাফটা) ও  দক্ষিণ-পূর্ব  এশীয় জাতিগুলোর সংঘ (আসিয়ান) এবং ২০০৪ সাফটা চুক্তি সম্পাদিত হয়।

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বৈশ্বিক প্রবণতা: বর্তমানে ৩৫০ টা আঞ্চলিক বাণিজ্য চুক্তি (আরটিএ) কার্যকর রয়েছে তার মধ্যে ৩০৫টিই মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি। বাকিগুলো অন্যান্য অর্থনৈতিক সংযুক্তির উপায় যেমন কাস্টমস ইউনিয়ন (সিইউ), অর্থনৈতিক সংযুক্তি চুক্তি (ইআইএ) এবং আংশিক সুবিধা চুক্তি (পিএসএ) । ডব্লিউটিও-র যাত্রা শুরুর পর আগ বা  ১৯৯৫ সাল পর্যন্ত আঞ্চলিক বাণিজ্য্ চুক্তি (আরটিএ) হয়েছে ৫০টি। বাকি ৩০০টিই হয়েছে বাকি ২৬ বছরে। গত সাত বছরে সম্পাদিত সক্রিয় চুক্তির সংখ্যা ১০০টি। মূলত আঞ্চলিক চুক্তির ক্ষেত্রে নেতৃত্ব দিয়েছে ইউরোপীয় ইউনিয়ন। ইউরোপীয় ইউনিয়নের সক্রিয় চুক্তির সংখ্যা ৪৬টি। ইএফটি-র সক্রিয় চুক্তি সংখ্যা ২৭টি। ইউরোপে একক দেশ হিসেবে সবচেয়ে বেশি বাণিজ্য চুক্তি করেছে যুক্তরাজ্য। এশিয়ায় নেতৃত্ব দিচ্ছে দক্ষিণ কোরিয়া, ১৭টি। দক্ষিণ আমেরিকায় নেতৃত্ব দিচ্ছে চিলি, ১৭টি চুক্তি সম্পাদনের মাধ্যমে। যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের রয়েছে ১৪টি সক্রিয় মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি। বর্তমানে আঞ্চলিক মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি আরও বড় পরিসরে সম্পাদিত হচ্ছে। গত ২০২০ সালের ১৫ নভেম্বর আসিয়ানভুক্ত ১০টি দেশ, পূর্ব এশিয়ার চীন, জাপান, দক্ষিণ কোরিয়া, এবং ওশেনিয়ার দুটি দেশ অস্ট্রেলিয়া ও নিউজিল্যান্ড- মোট ১৫ টি দেশের মধ্যে স্বাক্ষরিত হলো মুক্ত বাণিজ্য চুক্তি রিজিওনাল কমপ্রিহেনসিভ ইকোনমিক পার্টনারশিপ (আরসিইপি) । এই চুক্তির সদস্য দেশগুলোতে পৃথিবীর এক-তৃতীয়াংশ মানুষ বাস করে এবং বিশ্বের মোট জিডিপিতে এদের অবদান ২৯ শতাংশ। আরসিইপি-র মধ্য দিয়ে সদস্য দেশগুলো আগামী ২০ বছরের মধ্যে অনেক ধরনের কর/শুল্ক প্রত্যাহার করবে।

মো. জুলফিকার ইসলাম, গবেষক, বাংলাদেশ ফরেন ট্রেড ইনস্টিটিউট (বিএফটিআই), ঢাকা।

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/views/opinions/unseen-traps-before-mic-graduation-1629220362

Unseen traps before MIC graduation?

 Khawaza Main Uddin   | Published:  August 17, 2021 23:12:42

A visibly well-intended regulation that has asked banks not to set interest rate on fixed deposits below the inflation rate has come as more of a puzzle. Protecting depositors' interest is the declared objective of this recent central-bank directive, but bankers express worries about losing profitability of banks.

The Bangladesh Bank instruction and reaction to it, however, reinforce a popular concern that keeping savings (or easy money) as fixed deposits in banks is becoming an increasingly loss-making scheme. When inflation hovered around 5-6 per cent, interest rate decreased to 5.0 per cent or below, thanks to lending-rate cap at 9.0 per cent. Failure to maintain price stability is also acknowledged, perhaps inadvertently.

The falling deposit rates give us a feeling that the country is heading towards a syndrome common in the developed countries where people are barely interested in depositing money with banks for a longer period not just because of lower returns but also imposition of wealth tax on idle money.

Experts may have got an impression that the demand for banking credit has decreased all over Bangladesh and in a resulting lower investment scenario, there may be limited scope for boosting economic growth.

That may be a matter of concern since, until the pandemic hit the world, Bangladesh was in the process of graduating to the next level of development - middle-income-country (MIC) status. Costs of living have surged by this time. The interest rate is yet another conundrum for measuring Bangladesh's development on paper and on the ground.

Forget higher rates charged by microfinance institutions for their higher operational costs; the informal lending market in rural Bangladesh remains underreported or even unreported. Let's not believe either that unlicensed hedge financers are not on the prowl in urban areas. In mufassil (peri-urban) areas and villages, they charge up to 70 per cent interest a year and micro entrepreneurs and helpless people alike borrow money from the predators and turn bankrupt oftentimes.

The trends indicate how a large section of savers want to make more money and they are obviously encouraged by the demand for credit in the so-called informal market.

Does this bode well for the middle-income ambition of the nation?

We may see, if we are willing to, a few more paradoxes after Bangladesh has overcome the challenge of 'test case' of development, a tag that was used mostly by foreigners. The source of the recent growth euphoria, albeit disparity and governance deficiency, is also more foreign than local.

Some are trying to socially emerge as bhadrolok (gentlemen) in the sense that they would no longer do hard works for a comfortable living. There is labour shortage in agriculture and skills mismatch in industries, when millions are unemployed.

We've denied to some extent the belief that a free flow of information brings transparency and accountability in social activities. This society is no less digitally informed than many other countries but trading with and abuse of drug, for example, have been rampant.

If the recovery of valuables and illicit drugs during the raids and whitening of huge amount of black money in recent times are juxtaposed with the rise of new poor, what does this development look like?

Policy-wise, the initiative for encouraging higher business competition and the one for establishing economic zones to attract foreign investment were taken almost simultaneously. While the zones are visible, the performance of the competition council can be mirrored in the volatile market.

The drive for improving the investment climate is more focused on elevation of the country's position in the World Bank's ease-of-doing business index, rather than effectively consolidating homegrown institutions.

Formal attempts are made from time to time to correct regulatory atmosphere, be those in areas of tax collection, addressing corruption, or reining in the underground economy, but selective actions get priority over universal principles.

Countries sometimes find themselves trapped after attaining certain development, as defined by the World Bank as middle income status, in terms of income growth. As it's hard, in such a situation, to move forward, in a unique case, we may have fallen into a middle income trap before reaching the target. Still, the solution lies with people's engagement in development.

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https://www.tbsnews.net/economy/rmg/rmg-may-lose-uk-trade-benefits-post-ldc-290257

Abul Kashem

18 August, 2021, 10:55 pm

Last modified: 19 August, 2021, 02:12 pm

RMG may lose UK trade benefits post-LDC

Bangladesh will enjoy duty-free access to the British market for all of its products except for arms and ammunition under the scheme’s Least Developed Country Framework until 2026

 

Bangladesh's apparel products may lose duty-free access to the United Kingdom after it graduates to a developing country as regular tariffs will be applicable to any product when its import exceeds a set limit under the UK's new Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP).

Commerce ministry officials believe that such a provision in the UK GSP scheme's public document sent to the ministry could be detrimental to Bangladesh's duty-free export facilities to the country.

The UK has started formulating its own GSP scheme after Brexit. Bangladesh will enjoy duty-free access to the British market for all of its products except for arms and ammunition under the scheme's Least Developed Country Framework until 2026.

The UK GSP scheme's provision on product or goods graduation states that for textiles, apparel and clothing goods, graduation applies when the import ratio referred to exceeds 47.2%, according to the document.

The general threshold of 57% applies to all other goods. For live plants and floricultural goods, vegetable goods, animal or vegetable oils, fats and waxes and mineral goods, graduation applies when the import ratio referred to exceeds 17.5%. The UK will review the list of graduated goods every three years.

Goods graduation is the suspension of preferential rates of customs duty on certain imports following a goods graduation assessment. These imports are deemed highly competitive and no longer need preferences to compete in the UK market. These imports cannot benefit from preferential rates and the UK Global Tariff will apply instead. Suspensions can be applied to goods from countries in the General Framework, according to the document.

The proposed Enhanced Framework is similar to the EU's GSP Plus to provide GSP benefits to low-income and lower middle income countries, which are classified as economically vulnerable and have satisfied requirements relating to the 27 international conventions. Under this, two-thirds of product lines will get duty-free facility.

Under the General Framework and the Enhanced Framework, the UK market still includes Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which are exporters of readymade garments. Of them, Vietnam will not get the GSP benefit as it has a trade agreement with the UK.

Therefore, the export rate of Bangladesh's major garment items under the GSP facility is likely to go over 47% after its graduation to a developing country status.

To get GSP benefits under the enhanced framework, Bangladesh will have to comply with 26 international conventions. In this context, the UK said the aim is to encourage compliance with human and labour rights, good governance and sustainability. The Enhanced Framework asks countries to ratify, accede to or otherwise consent to be bound by 27 international conventions and their reporting requirements.

Under the UK GSP scheme's General Framework, low-income and lower middle income countries, as classified by the World Bank, will enjoy reduced tariffs on two-thirds of product lines. 

UK's GSP is going to have a provision to cancel or suspend such facility for a country for various reasons, including violations of human and labour rights, violation of international conventions on anti-terrorism and money laundering, violation of UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the failure to prevent illicit trade.

The least developed countries will request the UK to relax the conditions as it will be very difficult for them to comply with them, the commerce  ministry officials said.

The United States has suspended Bangladesh's GSP facility in its market since June 2013 for alleged labour rights violations. 

The European Union has sought a nine-point roadmap from Bangladesh to protect labour and human rights to remain eligible for the GSP benefit in its market. 

According to the Export Promotion Bureau, the UK is the third largest export market for Bangladesh. In the last fiscal year, Bangladesh's exports to the country amounted to $3.7 billion, which was 9.68% of the country's total exports. Exports of woven garments raked in $1.33 billion, knitwear $2.11 billion and home textiles $96 million from the country in FY21.

Officials in Dhaka Bangladesh are still not sure whether Bangladesh will continue to enjoy market access preference in the United Kingdom for an extra three years till 2029 after moving out of the LDC status in 2026. 

However, London has verbally promised Dhaka of maintaining the GSP facility for three more years after the LDC graduation. The UK High Commissioner in Dhaka has also confirmed it.

The United Kingdom has already sent a questionnaire on its new GSP scheme and asked for position papers from various countries, including Bangladesh, by 12 September. 

The commerce ministry held a stakeholder meeting on Monday with Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh in the chair.

The commerce ministry's WTO Cell director general Md Hafizur Rahman told The Business Standard that Bangladesh will send a position letter within the stipulated time. They will ask for some relaxation of the conditions in the GSP.

Commerce ministry officials said Bangladesh hopes to get GSP benefits in the UK under the Enhanced Framework after graduating to a developing country status. Bangladesh will try to get an unconditional GSP facility for the export of readymade garments to the country. That is why Bangladesh will request the UK to relax the condition of "product graduation" in the position paper.

Commerce ministry officials say the duty-free export of frozen fish to one of the country's leading export destinations will suffer owing to unregulated fishing at sea after it comes out of the LDC status. They said there is a mention of regulated and controlled fishing for duty-free marine fish exports to the UK. But there is no system in Bangladesh to regulate fishing vessels at sea. Therefore, they will request to relax this condition too.

Dr Khandaker Golam Moazzem, research director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, told TBS that the post-Brexit UK would prioritise bilateral trade agreements. The UK will make free trade agreements with different countries, which may reduce the importance of the unilateral scheme. 

If Bangladesh's competitors are among those who will sign an FTA with the UK, the country's exports will suffer, he added. 

Bangladesh should give importance to ensuring the existing GSP facility for an extra three years even after its graduation. At the same time, the country will have to continue its efforts to waive tariffs considering its competitiveness in the countries with which the UK will sign FTA, Dr Moazzem said.

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https://www.dhakatribune.com/business/economy/2021/08/22/bangkok-keen-to-sign-fta-with-dhaka

Bangkok keen to sign FTA with Dhaka

 Tribune Desk

 Published at 06:18 pm August 22nd, 2021

High tariffs on Thai products are stifling exports to Bangladesh to the desired level in spite of high demand, says a Thai official

Thailand is interested to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh to increase bilateral trade as tariff and non-tariff barriers stand in the way of promoting business potentials between the two countries.

Thai trade counselor in Dhaka Khemathat Archawathamrong expressed this view while talking to Dhaka Tribune recently.

He said that high tariffs on Thai products are stifling exports to Bangladesh to the desired level in spite of high demand.

Bangladesh has become a member of the middle-income group this year with its economy growing at 7-8% per annum before the Covid-19 outbreak last year.

Citing high tariff and non tariff barrier (NTB) as bottlenecks in promoting trade, the Thai Minister Counsellor (Commercial) demanded removal of both the predicaments.

Referring to high level meetings between two countries in Bangkok on several occasions, he also said that Thailand has raised the issue of high tariff and has urged Bangladesh to reduce high tariff on Thai products.

Citing an example, he said Bangladesh imposes some 62.50% on rice and 89.32% tax on mango. 

Further, mango import is banned until August in Bangladesh.

Emphasizing increasing trade between the two countries, he said prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, both sides had agreed to set a target of $2 billion in 2020, in the JTC meeting held in Bangkok. 

He believes that Thai products are getting popular in Bangladesh with the expansion of the local economy.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen in a meeting with Bangladeshi diplomats working in Asean countries stressed on increasing trade within the regions.

Former Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed while opening the Thai trade exhibition in Dhaka in 2018 showed his interest in signing an FTA with Thailand. The agreement has to cover all major areas of cooperation, such as trade in goods, services and investments, ensuring mutual benefits, Tofail Ahmed added.

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said Bangladesh is working to create sustainable trade facilities by signing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with different friendly countries.

Bangladesh has been a major beneficiary of an open market economy and globalization; naturally, the government will continue the practice of an open economy to encourage and facilitate businesses, he also said.

Apart from this, the discussion will also focus on how to strengthen the regional forums Bimstec and Asem.

To a question of recruiting Bangladeshi workers in Thailand, Khemathat Archawathamrong said that the pandemic has hit the economy and restricted movement of people. 

He, however, said that the Thai fishing industry may review the situation when the pandemic is over and normalcy returns.

Dhaka asked Bangkok to revive the proposal of recruiting skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled Bangladeshi workers for its labour-deficit sectors.

In the past, the fishing industry wanted the government to work with authorities in Bangladesh to supply 50,000 workers to solve a labour shortage in Thailand’s growing fisheries industry.

Praising the role of microcredit in reducing poverty, Khemathat Archawathamrong said Thailand has introduced this model to uplift people out of poverty.

On complications in obtaining a Thai visa, he said he will discuss the issue with the relevant authorities in removing barriers and speeding up the visa process.

He has expressed the views that members of reputed and established trade bodies like the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry) FBCCI, Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), DCCI, Bangladesh Chamber of Industries (BCI), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) can get privilege in getting Thai visa besides other reputed and established businessmen.

Meanwhile, in January 2020, Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister of Thailand Jurin Laksanawisit  at the fifth Thai-Bangladeshi Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meeting with Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tipu Munshu held in Bangkok laid emphasis on promoting trade between the two countries and  focused on agriculture, fisheries, livestock, health services and transportation.

Thailand regards Bangladesh as an important strategic partner in terms of trade, investment and transportation. It was Thailand’s third-largest trading partner in South Asia in 2018, he said.

The $1.2 billion worth of annual trade between the countries includes $1.2 million worth of Thai exports to Bangladesh and $59 million worth of imports from Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Dhaka requested Bangkok to expand duty and quota-free market or DFQF access facility to include more Bangladeshi products having export potential to Thailand.

It also handed over a list of 36 products for Thailand’s consideration in the review of DFQF list this year.

In the first 11 months of 2019, Thai imports from Bangladesh rose by 38.3% over the same period of 2018. And Thai interest is increasing in key products such as jute yarn, shoes and ready-made garments.

Thai direct investment in Bangladesh from 2006-2019 amounted to $1.5 billion, with much of it going into agro-industrial and agro-processing businesses, construction and hotels.

Bangladeshi direct investment in Thailand in the same period was worth $1.12 million.

The partners are in advantageous geographical proximity for mutual trade and extension of their trade across the region. Thailand is central to Southeast Asia and has infrastructure and policy in place to support investment in the form of development projects as the Eastern Economic Corridor, by which Bangladesh will be able to distribute its goods across the region and to East Asia. Bangladesh on the Indian Ocean has the modern infrastructure to facilitate Thai products and services in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, he said.

Thailand is seeking to more closely link Ranong Port with Bangladesh’s Chittagong Port as a channel for transporting goods.

In the meeting Thai Commerce Minister JurinLaksanawisit invited Bangladeshi businesspeople to visit the international exhibitions held here annually, such as the Bangkok Gems and Jewellery Fair, Thaifex and Style Bangkok, and he urged Dhaka to pursue a free-trade agreement with Bangkok.

Meanwhile, after two decades, in July 2017, foreign ministers of Bangladesh and Thailand have termed the Seventh Joint Commission of the two countries a major milestone in bilateral relations.

The meeting held in Dhaka was the first of its kind in two decades.

The then foreign minister, AH Mahmood Ali, and his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai agreed that the meeting was a major milestone and a harbinger for a vibrant chapter in our bilateral relations.

Both sides were pleased at the cumulative Thai investment in Bangladesh to the tune of $1.5 billion and the recent investment proposal worth $250 million in the energy sector.

Former foreign minister Ali invited fresh Thai investment in tourism, Buddhist Circuit tourism, health, hospitality, food processing, taking advantage of the SEZs and IT Park.

Meanwhile, Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said that a free-trade agreement (FTA) involved cooperation between at least two countries to reduce trade barriers, such as quotas and tariffs, and to increase the trade of goods and services with each other.

Citing an example, Moazzem also said that the automotive industry of Thailand was the largest in South Asia. 

Thailand can invest and establish an automotive assembly plant in Bangladesh so that the latter can re-export the automotive parts and components to Thailand, he added.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau of Bangladesh, some major import items from Thailand to Bangladesh are cement, cereals, plastic, man-made staple fibres, sugar and sugar confectionery, machinery and mechanical appliances, and cotton and cotton fabrics.

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/economy/bangladesh/bangladesh-wont-give-duty-concession-on-third-country-invoicing-1629772631

Bangladesh won't give duty concession on third country invoicing

 DOULOT AKTER MALA | Published:  August 24, 2021 08:37:12 | Updated:  August 24, 2021 12:36:44

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Bangladesh will not allow concessionary duty benefit under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) treaty in case of documentation completed in a non-member SAARC country.

Officials said the restriction would be applicable to all of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

However, Third Country Invoicing (TCI) is a well-accepted model under the World Customs Organisation (WCO) for its member- countries.

WCO has clear guidelines for TCI model under which importers can avail the concessionary duty benefit.

However, customs wing under the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) find it difficult to allow TCI benefit for not having relevant provision in the Rules of Origin (RoO).

The SAFTA Agreement also has a common RoO for determining the eligibility for tariff benefits available under the trade accord.

Addressing the issue, the customs wing of the NBR instructed its all customs houses across the country not to allow TCI for deriving SAFTA benefit.

The direction has been sent, referring to a letter of the MoC, to Nestle Bangladesh declining their claim for allowing TCI for concessionary duty benefit.

Under the decree, dated August 19, 2021, the concessionary duty benefit would not be valid in that case even though country of origin of the products is a SAARC country.

The customs would not allow the benefit on the basis of Certificate of Origin of the products from now on if invoice, packing list or other documents generate from a third country, the customs instructed to the field offices.

The SAFTA was signed in 2004 and came into force on 01 January 2006.

This issue came into focus after Multinational Company (MNC) Nestle Bangladesh had applied for the benefit to make import from India but on the basis of invoicing from Switzerland.

The Swiss MNC, a food-and drink-processing conglomerate, has changed its operational system under which it has to complete import-documentation process from the country of its parent company, sources said.

Although physical movement of goods would be from India but its documentation, including opening letter of credit (L/C), has to be completed from Switzerland.

An MNC source said it has requested the NBR for the clarification which was later handled by the Ministry of Commerce.

He said the government has assured them of raising the issue in the next inter-country meeting scheduled for December to update RoO between the SAARC countries.

Currently, customs cannot allow the facility for not having any provision in RoO or any precedence in the SAARC member- countries.

Talking to the FE, a senior customs official said the customs authority has to determine value addition of the products in the last country of export to allow the concessionary duty benefit. "There is a scope for a country, not a member of the SAARC, to enjoy the benefit that may cause loss of revenue to the public exchequer," he added.

In the instructions to the field offices the customs wing asked officials to make cautious move in allowing concessionary duty benefit under SAFTA.

The SAARC countries can avail the SAFTA benefit in case of procurement of raw materials around 30 to 40 per cent from a member-country, he said.

However, there is a lot of such precedence of TCI in the WCO member-countries, including China, Peru. Import of Coffee in bulk form required paying 25 percent duty but with the concessionary benefit under SAFTA Nestle can enjoy 5.0 per cent.

He said as the payment by Nestle would be made in its parent country in Switzerland, which is a non-member country of SAARC, so it would fall under 'non-originating criteria' for the benefit.

Trade-liberalization programme (TLP) under SAFTA commenced July 1st, 2006. Member-countries maintain a sensitive list, and products appearing on the list will not enjoy concessionary duty ranging from zero to five per cent.

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Para-tariff barriers blight trade benefits from SAFTA deal

 FE REPORT | Published:  August 30, 2021 08:54:31

Traders cannot reap full benefit of concessionary duty under SAFTA for para-tariff barriers in the form of other taxes that also impede trade expansion, according to views coming from a review of Bangladesh-India business ambiance.

During the reappraisal of tariff and trade and trade connectivity at a meet in Dhaka Sunday, the impugned matter of anti-dumping duty that affects Bangladesh jute export to India came up, and the top Indian diplomat here clarified that it is "company-specific", not "country-specific".

Under the SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement) rules, SAARC countries can enjoy a lower -- zero to five per cent -- customs-duty rates on import products between them.

However, in many cases, Bangladesh government imposed Regulatory Duty, Supplementary Duty, Advance Income Tax or other types of taxes on import products, making SAFTA benefit less effective, an Indian High Commission official told a seminar.

Pramyesh Basall, second secretary (commercial) of the Indian high commission in Dhaka, pointed out the barriers, along with some other issues, in a seminar on Financial and Business issues between the countries, held Sunday on the mission premises.

Indian High Comm-issioner Vikram Dorais-wami, Railway adviser Anita Barik, Priyanshu Tiwari, resident representative of Exim Bank India, shared different aspects of bilateral trade between the two countries.

The Indian high commissioner underscored the need for addressing infrastructure deficit between the countries to boost bilateral trade through land ports and import-export of electricity.

He applauded the agreement on accessing two seaports of Bangladesh -- Chattogram and Mongla -- as 'a game changer' in regional trade.

He said the use of the seaports has to be cost-effective to make those as regional hubs of connectivity.

Responding to a question on implications of a new Indian customs act for trade, the diplomat said the SAFTA Rules of Origin (RoO) can supersede other rules.

So far, new customs rules of India have not created any complexities on import from Bangladesh during the last one year, he told his audience.

On anti-dumping duty (ADD) on export of jute from Bangladesh, he claimed the jute products enjoy 8.0 to 12 percent subsidy of the Bangladesh government which may keep its prices competitive in the USA and the EU or other countries in respect of transportation and other issues. However, it is difficult for the competitors in a neighbouring country, he added.

Still, the Indian counterpart requested providing data to Bangladeshi exporters to investigate the matter of fair price but they did not get it, he said.

"ADD is a company-specific measure, not country-specific," the diplomat told the function.

 

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Dhaka to back LDCs' enhanced facilities under UK GSP scheme

 SYFUL ISLAM | Published:  August 30, 2021 08:37:08

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As the United Kingdom (UK) is introducing a new Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme next year, Bangladesh will advocate enhanced facilities for the least developed countries (LDCs), being a member of the group.

The UK has launched an eight-week public consultation on the country's future tariff and policies in relation to simplification of its draft GSP document.

Governments of the beneficiary countries and their private sectors, general public, civil society groups, consumers and other interested stakeholders are eligible to provide opinions on the draft document.

The consultation aims at simplifying rules of origin requirements for the LDCs, and incorporating a potential series of amendments to reduce tariffs for low income and lower-middle income countries.

It also targets potential amendments to the approach to goods graduation, which suspends preferential rates on particular goods from certain countries on the basis of their competitiveness.

The consultation further aims to find out potential amendments to the conditions and reporting requirements that enable a low income or lower-middle income country to benefit from the generous provisioning through the values-based incentivised arrangement.

According to officials, the new UK GSP scheme is keeping three criterions for the countries, which are - LDC Framework, General Framework, and Enhanced Framework.

The LDC Framework is for 47 countries that are classified by the United Nations as LDCs, and they will pay zero tariff on all products excluding arms and ammunition.

The low income and lower-middle income countries, as classified by the World Bank, are eligible to enjoy reduced tariffs on two thirds of their product lines under the General Framework.

Under the Enhanced Framework, low income and lower-middle income countries, which are classified as economically vulnerable and have satisfied requirements relating to the 27 international conventions, will see tariffs removed on two-thirds of their product lines.

Officials said the UK government is considering providing greater tariff reductions for the goods that are covered by the enhanced and general frameworks, but are not subject to a full tariff reduction.

Top officials of the Ministry of Commerce sat for a meeting on Sunday to devise strategy for Bangladesh's position on the UK's new GSP scheme.

Sources said in the meeting they discussed that Bangladesh would graduate from the LDC group in 2026, and the UK already assured that the country would continue to enjoy all the present facilities until 2029.

"So, in the consultations we will advocate for enhanced facilities for the LDC nations in the UK's new GSP scheme," a senior official told the FE.

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Bangladesh calls for global support for the Asia-Pacific LDCs

 FE ONLINE REPORT | Published:  August 31, 2021 11:42:59

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen has called for stronger policies and support measures for the least developed countries (LDCs).

He urged the global community for new international support architecture for the LDCs.

The Minister also made calls for the graduating LDCs at the High-level opening session of the 4-day Asia-Pacific Regional Review Meeting, jointly convened by the Bangladesh government, UN-OHRLLS, and UN-ESCAP at the UN Headquarters in Geneva in preparation for the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (UNLDC-5) to be held in Qatar in January. 

Speaking at the event, Dr. Momen lauded the remarkable progress made by the majority of the LDCs of the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in reducing poverty and investing in human resources and infrastructure, read a foreign ministry statement today.

Rabab Fatima, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN in New York chaired the opening session while several high-level speakers including Volkan Bozkir, President of the UN General Assembly, Collen Vixen Kelapile, President of the ECOSOC, Eisenhower Mkaka, Foreign Minister of Malawi and Chair of the LDCs, and Faruk Kaymakci, Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkey spoke on this event.

Foreign Minister Momen also chaired one session of the regional review meeting, titled “Ministerial dialogue on lessons learned in the implementation of the IPoA-challenges encountered and the way forward”.

The foreign minister also held meetings with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Daren Tang, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees at their offices in Geneva on Monday.

During his meeting with Dr. Tedros, Foreign Minister emphasised the more effective role of WHO to ensure the availability, affordability, and equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines for the developing countries.

Dr. Momen further highlighted the importance of temporary waiver of TRIPS obligations on the production of Covid-19 vaccines, medicines, and other medical equipment.

He informed the DG of Bangladesh’s capacity to produce vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other medical equipment that would be crucial to fight against the pandemic.

Dr. Momen also briefed DG of WHO about the significant positive impact of the community clinics on public health, particularly maternal and neonatal health in Bangladesh, and sought support from the WHO for establishing more such clinics.

During his meeting with the Director-General of UNHCR Mr. Philippo Grandi, Dr. Momen requested for UNHCR’s support to put pressure on Myanmar for sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas from Bangladesh.

DG Grandi again expressed the sincere appreciation of the UNHCR to the Government of Bangladesh, particularly to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for her extraordinary humanitarian decision to provide the forcibly displaced Rohingyas shelter in Bangladesh.

During his meeting with Daren Tang, the Director-General of WIPO, Foreign Minister Momen sought WIPO’s special support and facilitation for Bangladesh’s smooth graduation and achievement of Vision 2041 by providing support in strengthening the IP sector of Bangladesh.

Both Minister Momen and DG Tang agreed that intellectual property should be a tool for development, and should work as an incentive for SMEs, women entrepreneurs, and the youth.

Bangladesh has been playing an active leadership role in the multilateral fora on behalf of the LDCs.

In recognition of that, Ambassador Rabab Fatima, along with Ambassador Bob Rae, Permanent Representative of Canada to the UN in New York, was elected co-chair of the LDC-5 Preparatory Committee bureau, a key committee that will lead preparations for the LDC-5 conference.

As a Co-Chair, Bangladesh will have the opportunity to move forward with some of its key priorities, including sustainable graduation and international support measures for graduation.

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Bangladesh seeks strong policy, support for LDCs, graduating LDCs

 FE ONLINE REPORT | Published:  August 31, 2021 18:05:41

Bangladesh urged the global communities for stronger policies, measures and new support for the LDCs as well as the graduating LDCs, said Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Abdul Momen made the call while addressing the high-level opening session of the four-day Asia-Pacific Regional Review Meeting on Monday.

The meeting was jointly convened by Bangladesh government, UN-OHRLLS and UN-ESCAP at the UN Headquarters in Geneva in preparation for the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (UNLDC-5) to be held in Qatar in January 

Speaking at the event, Dr Momen lauded the remarkable progress made by the majority of the LDCs of the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in reducing poverty and investing in human resources and infrastructure.

He shared the graduation story of Bangladesh under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that has witnessed per capita income reaching $2,227 and reduction of poverty to 20.5 per cent.

Rabab Fatima, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN in New York chaired the opening session, while several high-level speakers including Volkan Bozkir, President of the UN General Assembly, Collen Vixen Kelapile, President of the ECOSOC, Eisenhower Mkaka, Foreign Minister of Malawi and Chair of the LDCs, and Faruk Kaymakci, Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkey spoke on this event.

Foreign Minister Momen also chaired one session of the regional review meeting, titled “Ministerial dialogue on lessons learned in the implementation of the IPoA-challenges encountered and the way forward”.

During the day, he also held meetings with Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Mr Daren Tang, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Mr Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees at their offices in Geneva on Tuesday, said a spokesperson of the foreign ministry.

“During his meeting with Dr Tedros, Foreign Minister emphasised on more effective role of WHO to ensure the availability, affordability and equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines for the developing countries”.

Dr Momen further highlighted the importance of temporary waiver of TRIPS obligations on production of Covid-19 vaccines, medicines and other medical equipment.

 He informed the DG of Bangladesh’s capacity to produce vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and other medical equipment that would be crucial to fighting against the pandemic.

During his meeting with the Director General of UNHCR Mr Philippo Grandi, Dr Momen requested for UNHCR’s support to put pressure on Myanmar for sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya from Bangladesh, the spokesperson of the foreign ministry said.

“DG Grandi again expressed the sincere appreciation of the UNHCR to the Government of Bangladesh, particularly to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for her extraordinary humanitarian decision to provide the forcibly displaced Rohingya shelter in Bangladesh.”

“During his meeting with Mr Daren Tang, the Director General of WIPO, Momen sought WIPO’s special support and facilitation for Bangladesh’s smooth graduation and achievement of Vision 2041 by providing support in strengthening the IP sector of Bangladesh”.

Bangladesh has been playing an active leadership role in the multilateral forum on behalf of the LDCs. In recognition of that, Ambassador Rabab Fatima, along with Ambassador Bob Rae, Permanent Representative of Canada to the UN in New York, was elected co-chair of the LDC-5 Preparatory Committee bureau, a key committee that will lead preparations for the LDC-5 conference.

As a co-chair, Bangladesh will have the opportunity to move forward with some of its key priorities, including sustainable graduation and international support measures for graduation.

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Bangladesh urges for continuation of LDC-specific international support after graduation

 FE ONLINE REPORT | Published:  September 01, 2021 17:39:16 | Updated:  September 01, 2021 18:11:39

Bangladesh has urged for the continuation of LDC-specific flexibilities and exemptions available under the WTO rules and provisions for the LDCs after graduation, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Dr A. K. Abdul Momen made the request during his meeting with the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at her office in Geneva on Tuesday. 

"While conveying satisfaction for the TRIPS Council’s recent decision to allow the LDCs with exemption period until 01 July 2034 under TRIPS Article 66.1, the foreign minister expressed concerns for possible negative impacts on the development momentum of the graduated countries if they lose the international support measures (ISMs)”, the spokesperson said. 

Referring to LDC group’s submission in the WTO for extension of LDC-specific ISMs, Dr Momen expressed hope for a favourable decision in the upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference to be held in November in Geneva, the spokesperson said.

Foreign Minister also held meetings with Michelle Bachelet Jeria, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Guy Ryder, Director General of ILO at their offices during the day.

During his meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr Momen stressed the international community’s responsibility towards establishing and supporting accountability and justice for the massive human rights violations perpetrated against Rohingyas in Myanmar.

“He further reiterated Bangladesh’s strong commitment to promoting the safe, dignified and voluntary return of the Rohingya in a conducive environment in Myanmar and conveyed Bangladesh’s readiness to work with Myanmar, UNCHR, OHCHR and other concerned parties to bring about sustainable and durable solution”. 

Foreign Minister Momen highlighted the incremental progress that Bangladesh has made in the RMG sector during his meeting with Guy Ryder, the Director General of ILO

Terming Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as the 'Friend of Workers', Dr Momen emphasized the initiatives taken by the government of Bangladesh during the pandemic for the welfare and protection of the RMG sector workers.

The spokesperson further added that no garment factory worker was terminated from service during the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to different stimulus packages and initiatives of the Government of Bangladesh.


Dr Momen is on a three-day visit to Geneva to participate in the Asia-Pacific Regional Review Meeting of the LDCs.

The meeting was jointly convened by the Government of Bangladesh, UN-OHRLLS and UN-ESCAP at the UN Headquarters in Geneva in preparation for the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (UNLDC-5).

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বাংলাদেশে মধ্যবিত্তের আকার এক দশকে পাঁচ কোটি ছাড়াবে

সাইদ শাহীন

সেপ্টেম্বর ০৫, ২০২১

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২০৩০ সালের মধ্যে বিশ্বে মধ্যবিত্তের সংখ্যার দিক থেকে বাংলাদেশের অবস্থান হবে ১১তম। বর্তমানে ওই তালিকার ২৮তম অবস্থানে রয়েছে দেশটি। তবে বিশ্বের সবচেয়ে বেশি জনসংখ্যার দেশগুলোকে বাদ দিলে আগামী দশকে অন্য জনবহুল দেশগুলোর মধ্যে মধ্যবিত্ত বৃদ্ধির তালিকায় শীর্ষ তিনে থাকবে বাংলাদেশ। এ সময়ের মধ্যে বাংলাদেশের জনসংখ্যার এক-তৃতীয়াংশের বেশি মানুষ হবে মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর আওতাভুক্ত। শ্রেণীটির বিকাশের মাধ্যমে দেশের সেবা খাতের চাহিদা ও ভোক্তার সংখ্যা বাড়বে। একই সঙ্গে সম্প্রসারিত হবে অর্থনীতির ক্ষেত্র। সম্প্রতি ওয়ার্ল্ড ডাটা ল্যাবের পরিসংখ্যানে এমন তথ্যই উঠে এসেছে।

গবেষণার তথ্য বলছে, চলতি বছর একটি পরিবারে প্রতিদিন ১১ ডলার থেকে ১১০ ডলার খরচ করেছে এমন মানুষের সংখ্যা ছাড়িয়েছে ৩৭৫ কোটি  চীন ও ভারতে এ শ্রেণীর মানুষের আরো অন্তর্ভুক্তির কারণে আগামী ২০৩০ সালে মধ্যবিত্তের সংখ্যা আরো বাড়বে। তবে ২০৩০ সালের মধ্যে জনবহুল দেশগুলোর মধ্যে ইন্দোনেশিয়ায় নতুন মধ্যবিত্ত যুক্ত হবে ৭ কোটি ৫৮ লাখ মানুষ। এছাড়া পাকিস্তানে ৫ কোটি ৯৫ লাখ, বাংলাদেশে ৫ কোটি ২৪ লাখ এবং ফিলিপাইনে ৩ কোটি ৭৫ লাখ মানুষ যুক্ত হবে। অন্যদিকে মিসরে ২ কোটি ৯৬ লাখ, আমেরিকায় ২ কোটি ৪২ লাখ, ভিয়েতনামে ২ কোটি ৩২ লাখ, ব্রাজিলে ২ কোটি ৬ লাখ, মেক্সিকোতে ২ কোটি ১ লাখ মধ্যবিত্ত যুক্ত হবে।

মধ্যবিত্তের এ বিকাশকে দেশের সামগ্রিক অর্থনীতির উন্নতি ও অগ্রগতির পরিচায়ক হিসেবে দেখছেন বিশ্লেষকরা। কেননা বাংলাদেশে জনপ্রতি আয় ২ হাজার ডলার ছাড়িয়েছে। দারিদ্র্যের হার কমে ২০ শতাংশের কাছাকাছি এসেছে। যার প্রভাব গিয়ে পড়ছে মধ্যবিত্তের উত্থানে। যারা আগে দরিদ্র ছিল, তাদের মধ্য থেকে একটি অংশ নতুন মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীতে যোগ দিচ্ছে। দরিদ্রদের বাইরে সিংহভাগ মানুষই আর্থিকভাবে সক্ষমতা অর্জন করেছে।

বিশেষজ্ঞরা বলছেন, বাংলাদেশে মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর বিকাশে কৃষিবহির্ভূত খাত ও অর্থনীতিতে নারীর অংশগ্রহণ বড় ভূমিকা রাখছে। বাংলাদেশে কৃষির বাইরে কিছু মানুষ চলে আসছে এ শ্রেণীর মানুষ হয় পড়ালেখা করে চাকরি করছে, না হয় কেউ ব্যবসা করছে, আবার কেউ কেউ স্বাধীন পেশা গ্রহণ করছে। এখন শুধু পরিবারের পুরুষ সদস্যই উপার্জনে যোগ দিচ্ছে না, তাদের সঙ্গে নারীরাও প্রায় সমহারে উপার্জনে অংশ নিচ্ছে। তবে শুরুতেই শিক্ষায় খুব বেশি এগিয়ে আসতে না পারলেও মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর পরবর্তী প্রজন্ম এগিয়ে যাবে। এক সময়ে দেশের যে উচ্চবিত্ত শ্রেণী আছে, সেখানেও জায়গা করে নেবে এ নতুন শ্রেণীর মধ্যবিত্ত। ফলে এক প্রজন্ম পরই দেশে উচ্চবিত্তের সংখ্যা ব্যাপক হারে বেড়ে যাবে।

২০১৫ সালে বাংলাদেশ উন্নয়ন গবেষণা প্রতিষ্ঠানের (বিআইডিএস) তত্কালীন গবেষণা পরিচালক ও বর্তমান মহাপরিচালক ড. বিনায়ক সেন ‘সাইজ অ্যান্ড গ্রোথ অব দ্য মিডল ক্লাস ইন বাংলাদেশ: ট্রেন্ডস, প্রোফাইলস অ্যান্ড ড্রাইভারস’ শীর্ষক একটি গবেষণা করেন।সেখানে দেখা যায়, বাংলাদেশের সেই সময়কার মোট জনসংখ্যার ২০ শতাংশ জনগোষ্ঠী বা ৩ কোটি ৬৮ লাখ মানুষ ছিল মধ্যবিত্ত। ১৯৯২ সালে বাংলাদেশের মোট জনগোষ্ঠীর মাত্র ৯ শতাংশ মধ্যবিত্ত ছিল। তবে ২০২৫ সালে তা ২৫ শতাংশে উন্নীত হবে ও ২০৩০ সালের মধ্যে দেশের এক-তৃতীয়াংশ মানুষ মধ্যবিত্ত হবে।

মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর মানুষের প্রায় ৪৮ দশমিক ৪ শতাংশ বা প্রায় অর্ধেকই বেসরকারি চাকরি করেন। এছাড়া ব্যবসার সঙ্গে জড়িত ২২ শতাংশ। এক সময়ে ইংরেজি মাধ্যমে পড়াশোনা উচ্চবিত্তের মধ্যেই সীমাবদ্ধ ছিল। কিন্তু এখন মধ্যবিত্ত পরিবারের সন্তানরাও ইংরেজি মাধ্যমে লেখাপড়া করে। ২৩ দশমিক ৪৯ শতাংশ মধ্যবিত্ত পরিবারের সন্তান ইংরেজি মাধ্যমে পড়ে। বাংলা মাধ্যমে পড়ে দুই-তৃতীয়াংশ মধ্যবিত্তের ছেলে-মেয়ে। মধ্যবিত্তের মধ্যে আর্থিক খাতে সম্পৃক্ত হওয়ার প্রবণতা বেশ ভালো। ৯৬ শতাংশ মধ্যবিত্তের ব্যাংক হিসাব আছে। প্রায় এক-চতুর্থাংশ মধ্যবিত্ত জনগোষ্ঠী ব্যাংকে স্থায়ী আমানত রাখে। প্রায় ১৭ শতাংশ সঞ্চয়পত্রে বিনিয়োগ করে। আর্থিক প্রতিষ্ঠান থেকে ঋণ নিয়েছে ১২ দশমিক ৩ শতাংশ। শেয়ারবাজারে বিনিয়োগ করে ১৯ দশমিক ৩ শতাংশ।

এ বিষয়ে বিআইডিএসের মহাপরিচালক ড. বিনায়ক সেন বণিক বার্তাকে বলেন, আমার দৃষ্টিতে এখন দেশের প্রায় ৩০ শতাংশ মানুষ মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীতে উন্নীত হয়েছে। গত কয়েক বছর ধরেই যে হারে মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর বিকাশ ঘটছে, তাতে ধারণার চেয়ে বেশি হওয়াটা স্বাভাবিক। শহর ও গ্রাম উভয় স্থানেই এ শ্রেণীর বিকাশ ঘটছে। মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর বিকাশের কারণে অর্থনীতি বহুমুখী খাতের সম্মিলিত মাধ্যমে উন্নয়ন হবে। কয়েকটি খাতের ওপর নির্ভরশীলতা থাকবে না। এছাড়া দেশের সুশাসনের চাহিদা বেড়ে যাওয়ার পাশাপাশি রফতানি খাত ও কৃষি খাত বহুমুখী হবে। তবে মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর চাহিদা অনুসারে সেবা নিশ্চিত ও স্বার্থ সংরক্ষণে পদক্ষেপ নিতে হবে জানিয়ে তিনি বলেন, মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর উদ্যোক্তারা তাদের কষ্টার্জিত অর্থের মুনাফা যেমন প্রত্যাশা করবে, তেমনিভাবে নিয়ম-কানুনের পরিচ্ছন্ন বাস্তবায়ন চাইবে। মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর উত্থান সুশাসন প্রতিষ্ঠার পথে দারুণভাবে সহায়ক হবে। তাই সেবা বিশেষ করে পরিবহন, শিক্ষা, স্বাস্থ্য নিশ্চিত করতে না পারলে এ শ্রেণীর মানুষের বিদেশ যাওয়ার প্রবণতা তৈরি হবে।

বিশ্লেষকরা বলছেন, মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর মানুষ হচ্ছে প্রধানত সরকারি ও বেসরকারি চাকরিজীবী, পেশাজীবী, ছোট-বড় উপার্জনকারী ব্যবসায়ী/শিল্পপ্রতিষ্ঠানের মালিক এবং ক্ষুদ্র ও মাঝারি ধরনের উদ্যোক্তা। যত বেশি মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর বিকাশ হবে, তত বেশি অর্থনীতি টেকসই হবে। গণতান্ত্রিক মানসিকতার উন্মেষ হবে। এছাড়া মধ্যবিত্তের বিকাশের সঙ্গে সেবা খাতের চাহিদা বাড়ে, ভোক্তার সংখ্যা বাড়ে ও অর্থনীতির ক্ষেত্র সম্প্রসারিত হয়। ক্রয়ক্ষমতা বেড়ে যাওয়ার অর্থ হচ্ছে ব্যবসা-বাণিজ্যের সম্প্রসারণ, খাদ্যাভ্যাসের ব্যাপক পরিবর্তন, হোটেল-রেস্তোরাঁয় গমনের অভ্যাস বেড়ে যাওয়া এবং বিদেশ ভ্রমণ ও পর্যটন শিল্পের বিকাশ। মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর বিকাশের ফলে অর্থনৈতিক নীতিমালায় অনেক পরিবর্তন আসতে বাধ্য হবে। ব্যাংকিং ও বীমা খাতে এবং শেয়ারবাজারে মধ্যবিত্তদের ব্যাপক উপস্থিতির ফলে নীতিমালায় আসতে হবে স্বচ্ছতা ও জবাবদিহিতা।

অর্থনৈতিক উন্নয়নে মধ্যবিত্তের ভূমিকা বা গুরুত্ব কতটুকু? অর্থনীতিতে নোবেলজয়ী অভিজিৎ বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায় ও এস্থার দুফলোর ২০০৭ সালে বিশ্বের মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণী নিয়ে করা গবেষণায় সেটি উঠে এসেছে। অর্থনৈতিক উন্নয়নে তারা মধ্যবিত্তের তিনটি ভূমিকার কথা বলেছিলেন। প্রথমত, মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণী থেকেই সাধারণত উদ্যোক্তা বেশি উঠে আসে। তারা সমাজে উৎপাদনশীলতা বাড়ায়, কর্মসংস্থান তৈরি করে। এছাড়া মধ্যবিত্ত মূল্যবোধ মানব পুঁজি আহরণ ও সঞ্চয়ের ওপর জোর দেয়, যা অর্থনৈতিক উন্নয়নের প্রধান উপকরণ। মধ্যবিত্তরা দরিদ্রদের তুলনায় বেশি ভোগ করে এবং একটু বেশি গুণগত মানের পণ্য বা সেবা পেতে কিছুটা বেশি খরচ করতেও রাজি থাকে। এর মাধ্যমে মধ্যবিত্তরা বাজারে যে চাহিদা সৃষ্টি করে, তা বিনিয়োগ বাড়াতে সহায়তা করে।

এ বিষয়ে বেসরকারি গবেষণা প্রতিষ্ঠান সেন্টার ফর পলিসি ডায়ালগের (সিপিডি) সম্মাননীয় ফেলো ড. মুস্তাফিজুর রহমান বলেন, দারিদ্র্য বিমোচনের সঙ্গে সঙ্গে মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর মানুষের উত্থান হয়েছে। তবে সাম্প্রতিক সময়ে কভিড মহামারী ও আয়বৈষম্যের কারণে আমাদের মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর বিকাশের গতি কিছুটা শ্লথ হয়েছে। এ শ্রেণীর যত দ্রুত বিকাশ হবে, ততই উৎপাদিত পণ্য, সৌখিন ও টেকসই পণ্যের চাহিদা বাড়বে। ফলে অভ্যন্তরীণ বাজারনির্ভর শিল্পের বিকাশ হবে। দেশের উৎপাদনশীল ও দক্ষতানির্ভর প্রতিযোগী সক্ষমতা গড়ে তুলতে মধ্যবিত্ত ভূমিকা রাখবে জানিয়ে তিনি বলেন, এলডিসি থেকে উত্তরণ হলে বাজারনির্ভর প্রতিযোগী সক্ষমতা থেকে বের হয়ে আসতে হবে। সেখানে মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণীর মানুষ দক্ষ জনশক্তির জোগান, রাজস্ব আয়ে ইতিবাচক ভূমিকা রাখা ছাড়াও শিল্পায়ন, সেবা খাতের সম্প্রসারণ করতে ভূমিকা পালন করবে।

মধ্যবিত্ত: যেসব কর্মজীবী মানুষের আয় দৈনিক প্রায় ৩ ডলারের ওপর, তারাই মধ্যবিত্তের আওতায় আসে। এ হিসাব ক্রয়ক্ষমতার সক্ষমতার ভিত্তিতে করা হয়। অপর একটি হিসাব হচ্ছে বাজার বিনিময় হারের বা মার্কেট এক্সচেঞ্জ রেটের ভিত্তিতে। আবার আয়ের দিক থেকে বিশ্বের মানুষকে সাধারণত পাঁচ ভাগে ভাগ করা হয়। দরিদ্র, স্বল্প আয়ের মানুষ, মধ্য আয়ের মানুষ, উচ্চ মধ্যম আয়ের ও উচ্চ আয়ের মানুষ। যারা দিনে ২ ডলারের কম আয় করে তাদের দরিদ্র, দিনে ২ দশমিক শূন্য ১ থেকে ১০ ডলার পর্যন্ত আয় হলে তারা নিম্ন আয়ের মানুষ, ১০ দশমিক শূন্য ১ থেকে ২০ ডলার পর্যন্ত আয়ের মানুষেরাই মধ্যম আয়ের, ২০ দশমিক শূন্য ১ থেকে ৫০ ডলার আয় হলে উচ্চ মধ্যম আয়ের ও দিনে ৫০ ডলারের বেশি আয় হলে তারা উচ্চ আয়ের শ্রেণীর। এ আয় ক্রয়ক্ষমতার সমতার (পিপিপি) ভিত্তিতে প্রণয়ন করা হয়।

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https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-02/more-than-1-billion-asians-will-join-global-middle-class-by-2030?utm_content=asia&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic

More Than 1 Billion Asians Will Join Global Middle Class by 2030

By 

Alexandre Tanzi

September 3, 2021, 2:00 AM GMT+6

 

More than 1 billion Asians are set to join the global middle class by 2030, according to a new study that predicts the pandemic will prove just a temporary pause in the world economy’s great demographic shift. 

The middle class -- households where per-capita spending is between $11 and $110 a day -- amounts to some 3.75 billion people this year, according to the World Data Lab. That cohort is projected to keep growing through 2030 with India and China, the most populous countries, adding about three-quarters of a billion members between them.

Beyond India and China

Outside of the world's most populous countries, here's where the global middle class is forecast to grow most over the coming decade

 

The other biggest contributors are also in Asia. They include countries like Indonesia -- projected to have the world’s fourth-biggest middle class by 2030, overtaking Russia and Japan -- and Bangladesh, a densely populated country the size of Iowa, which is set to rise up the rankings faster than any other nation. It’s forecast to jump from 28th to 11th place, adding more than 50 million middle-class consumers. 

Asian countries already make up more than half of the world’s middle class, but they account for only 41% of that group’s consumer spending, according to the study. The share is set to exceed 50% by 2032.

China, India and the U.S. are projected to retain the top three rankings as the countries with the largest middle-class populations, according to World Data Lab. Slow or negative population growth in some advanced economies will lead to a shrinking middle class in countries like Japan, Germany, Italy and Poland.

(Note: The WDL study uses 2011 dollars at purchasing power parity.)

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/economy/bangladesh/cautious-rope-walking-wise-for-bangladesh-skipping-any-orbit-say-policy-researchers-1630988278

Cautious rope walking wise for Bangladesh skipping any orbit, say policy researchers

 FE REPORT | Published:  September 07, 2021 10:17:58

Bangladesh should proactively engage with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to redress any fallout from the emerging geopolitics-geoeconomics diarchies in aftermaths of pandemic and the country's LDC graduation, policy researchers suggest.

They have a special note of caution for safe rope walking in the wake of realignment of global powers with their politico-diplomatic and economic prowess, with particular reference to the developments close to home: China-India rivalry.

Speaking Monday at a virtual meet some of them favoured Bangladesh playing a safe card pursuing productive relations with both China and India judicious for aid and trade preferences from the regional powers, without falling into either's 'orbit' of influence.

State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam told the webinar that the government is laying emphasis on investment diversification alongside enlarging export basket.

"The current policy documents are tuned to addressing the adverse implications of the geoeconomics and so far the country has taken a cautious approach without falling into the power play of any regional or global powers," he said while speaking as chief guest at the programme.

Economic Reporters' Forum (ERF) in collaboration with the Research Policy Integration for Development (RAPID) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) organised the web-based seminar on 'Geoeconomics in the Aftermath of the Covid-19 Pandemic: Trade and Development Perspectives from Bangladesh'.

Experts from government, academia, industry, and media joined the event as panelists. Dr Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished fellow at the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), moderated the webinar.

Dr M Abu Eusuf, Executive Director of RAPID and professor of Dhaka University, and Mr Felix Kolbitz, Resident Representative of FES Bangladesh, delivered their welcome remarks.

RAPID Chairman Dr Mohammad Abdur Razzaque, eminent economist and international trade expert, presented a keynote highlighting that world trade and other major forces of globalisation are now passing through a turbulent time for certain latest developments.

He noted that the rise of geoeconomics-the use of various economic and trade policy instruments by global and regional economic powers to promote their national interests and geopolitical influence-undermines the rules-based multilateral trading system led by the WTO.

In the keynote Dr Razzaque pointed out that there could be a prolonged period of uncertainty as some of the leading economies scramble for their economic and geopolitical gains.

"As Bangladesh wants to benefit from being geographically located in the vicinity of the world's two largest growth centres in India and China, the geopolitical rivalry of the two countries, however, makes the region a geoeconomics power- play ground," he said.

He noted that a reinforced integration of foreign policy, trade policy, and economic development objectives is needed.

Dr Razzaque also underscored that Bangladesh should strongly advocate for strengthening the multilateral trading system with a transparent dispute- settlement procedure by incorporating reforms to contain the indiscriminate use of geoeconomic tools.

He recommended that Bangladesh must also maintain productive relations with both China and India, judiciously using their financial assistance and trade preferences, while not falling into the "power orbit" of either.

Alongside trying to revitalise SAFTA and bring dynamism into BIMSTEC, Bangladesh should pursue RCEP membership.

He said Bangladesh must work on improving diplomatic and trade-negotiation capacities so that the development objectives can be effectively pursued.

Discussant Dr Nazneen Ahmed, country economist of UNDP Bangladesh, said that it is very important to set the right priorities while engaging with the development partners.

Mr Faiyaz Murshid Kazi, Director-General (West Europe & EU wing), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, highlighted that Bangladesh is now adopting a multi-front approach and exploring different frontiers to enhance regional connectivity.

Salma Akhtar, professor of Sociology at the University of Dhaka, said, "We must not lose sight of the gender dimensions of development."

Mr Mohammad Jahirul Quayum, Deputy Secretary, Export & LDC Graduation Wing at the Ministry of Commerce, brought in the issue of looking at welfare of the consumers in the post-LDC (Least Developed Country) period.

Ferdaus Ara Begum, Chief Executive Officer at BUILD, recommended an in-depth study and necessary policy action to see why the pledged investments by China and India are not being materialised.

Dr Shahab Enam Khan, professor of International Relations at Jahangirnagar University, stressed the importance of taking a cautious approach to engaging with the regional and global powers.

Dr Rudabeh Shahid, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of York, opined that Bangladesh should engage with Bhutan and Nepal alongside India to bring hydroelectricity into the country.

Dr Mahfuz Kabir, Research Director at Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), urged that Bangladesh act fast to benefit from the untapped opportunities in the markets of China and India.

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https://www.tbsnews.net/economy/bangladesh-decides-join-largest-trade-bloc-299347

Abul Kashem

07 September, 2021, 10:50 pm

Last modified: 08 September, 2021, 10:22 am

Bangladesh decides to join largest trade bloc

Commerce ministry will send a formal proposal to the China-led RCEP

cartoon_rcep.jpg?itok=8h3RCMVh&timestamp

 

Illustration: TBS

 

Bangladesh has decided to join the world's largest trading bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), to stay eligible for duty-free trade facilities in the markets of nearly one-third of the global economies after it graduates to a developing nation in 2026.

The commerce ministry will send a formal proposal to the RCEP headquarters, conveying the country's interest in availing a membership to the bloc, as decided in a meeting on Sunday, a senior official of the ministry told The Business Standard.

With the trading alliance of 15 economies, including China and Japan, entering into force at the beginning of 2022, Bangladesh's exports to the RCEP nations will not face much trouble until 2026 when the country's duty-free access to these two major markets will end, according to commerce ministry officials.

The country is getting duty-free facilities in New Zealand and Australia too. But after the LDC graduation, such facilities will no longer be available.

Besides, if Bangladesh does not join the RCEP or sign free trade agreements separately with those countries by 2026, it will lose its competitive edge in apparel export destinations, especially in China and Japan, while its competitor Vietnam as an RCEP signatory will enjoy duty-free access there after the deal takes effect. In this way, ministry officials think, Bangladesh might lose its market share to Vietnam.

That is why, keeping in mind possible losses of trade benefits in RCEP member countries, Bangladesh has decided to enter the trade association, they said.

On 15 November 2020, the 15 countries – China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand; 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean): Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines – inked the world's largest free trade agreement that covers 2.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $26.2 trillion.

The deal aims to lower tariffs, open up trade in services and promote investment to help emerging economies catch up with the rest of the world. The RCEP is especially expected to help reduce costs and time for companies by allowing them to export a product anywhere within the bloc – without meeting separate requirements for each country.

Once ratified by three-fifths of the 15 signatories – six Asean countries and three non-Asean countries in their respective parliaments – the RCEP deal will come into effect in 60 days. Japan, Singapore and Thailand have already ratified the RCEP agreement domestically. The trading alliance plans to launch its operation in January next year.

The concept of RCEP was hatched in 2012 and gained momentum in 2017 when the US walked out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), later renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The initiative got new impetus from the US-China trade war, which had knocked the region's economy to its lowest in five years even before Covid-19 broke out.

In November 2019, India was onboard when leaders of 16 nations concluded RCEP negotiations in Bangkok and expected to sign the deal formally in 2020. India later pulled out, citing unresolved issues.

During that time, Bangladesh had stayed aloof from the entire negotiation process in the formation of the world's largest trade bloc. Later, experts opined that Bangladesh might lose trade benefits and face problems in attracting foreign direct investment because of the China-led RCEP. They suggested that Bangladesh try to join or at least sign a deal with the RCEP to safeguard its economy after graduating to a developing country.

Within a week into the formation of the trading bloc last year, Bangladesh's commerce ministry formed a nine-member committee to assess any possible negative impact from the RCEP on the country's exports. The committee was also tasked with identifying what benefits Bangladesh would get if it joined the free trading bloc.

According to the committee, 10 Asean countries have already introduced duty-free trade facilities among themselves. Among the remaining six signatories, China and Japan are important markets for Bangladesh as it is getting duty-free access to these countries.

Bangladesh's exports to four other countries, including Australia and New Zealand, are low. So, the commerce ministry does not think the RCEP will cause any problem for Bangladesh immediately. When Bangladesh graduates to a developing country, there will be a negative impact on exports and foreign direct investment, it added.

The committee submitted a report to the ministry after reviewing what is in the RCEP agreement, Dr Mostafa Abid Khan, member of the committee and immediate-past member of the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission, told TBS.

No work has been done yet on probable problems that Bangladesh's exports will face because of the RCEP or what benefits the country would get if it joined the trade alliance, he said, adding that a thorough analysis on such issues is required before submitting a formal proposal for joining the RCEP.

"We have to calculate how much benefit Bangladesh will get by joining the RCEP and how much other countries will have in return from us. Analysing the tariff schedule in the deal, it will be clear how much we will get. To get extra, if any, we have to work on availing that by devising an action plan," Dr Mostafa pointed out.

It is not necessary to send a proposal for membership right now. The trading bloc will add new members six months after the RCEP agreement takes effect. In the meantime, Bangladesh will have to complete all necessary preparations, he added.

He thinks that applying for membership without analysing profits and losses will not bring any benefit.

When the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was drafted in 2015, the commerce ministry sought views of Bangladesh embassies in various countries on the agreement's possible negative impact on Bangladesh's exports and ways to overcome it.

Tapan Kanti Ghosh, Bangladesh's then commercial counsellor in Brussels, gave opinions in writing in favour of joining the China-led RCEP to counter the potential impact posed by the TPP. If it was not possible to join the RCEP, he suggested signing a free trade agreement with China after graduating to a developing country.

According to the commerce ministry, Bangladesh is currently associated with three multilateral economic alliances – the Developing Eight (D8), the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (Apta) and the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta).

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/views/economic-trends-and-insights/fdi-ftas-gvcs-behind-vietnams-superb-export-feat-1631857757

FDI, FTAs & GVCs behind Vietnam’s superb export feat

 Zaidi Sattar | Published:  September 17, 2021 11:49:17

 

1631857757.jpg

While theories about the gains from trade originated from the minds of thinkers and thought leaders in Europe and North America, the practice of leveraging international trade to transform poor backward economies into prosperous and developed economies within a time frame of 50 years originated from the leaders and governments of East Asian countries.

East Asia led the way. First it was Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, in the 1960s and 1970s. Then it was China in 1978 under Deng Xiaoping, who opened up a hard communist country for trade and foreign investment, calling it socialism with market orientation, giving China 30 years of 10 per cent plus growth.

Now it is the turn of another communist country, Vietnam, introducing Doi Moi reforms in 1984 which introduced another dose of trade and market orientation into a socialist economy.

The results are before us.

Vietnam has embraced export-led growth, a trade policy paradigm which originated in East Asia in the 1960s and 1970s, but with a 21st century twist.

What is new? The 21st century version that we see in Vietnam is export-led growth which is actually trade-led growth bolstered by three new distinctive features of modern international trade. These are: (1) unfettered foreign direct investment (FDI), (2) expansive regional and bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs), and (3) cross-border global value chain (GVC) integration.

Clearly, this is not export-led growth based on standard comparative advantage principles driven by local resource endowment. Much if not all of its export success, in manufactured products, is driven by foreign invested enterprises.

The government and local entrepreneurs in Vietnam welcomed foreign investment without reservations.

The thrust of Vietnam’s trade policy is courting export-seeking FDI. Since the mid-2000s, the Vietnamese government has offered extremely competitive financial incentives to businesses seeking to set up operations in the country, in addition to a zero per cent withholding tax on dividends remitted overseas and a low corporate income tax (CIT) rate of only 20 per cent.

To top it all, FDI regulations called for minimal local content requirement – a typical FDI inhibitor.

FDI in Vietnam has not only brought copious amounts of capital but created skill-based jobs, infused innovation, improved management, opened retail windows in developed country markets, upscaled to higher value added apparel (of man-made fiber) and electronic products, and so on.

But FDI came for exports not the domestic market.

Again, Vietnam has aggressively signed FTAs -- most notably, RCEP, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), EU-Vietnam FTA (EVFTA) plus a few more bilateral FTAs (e.g. Japan, Australia, New Zealand) Vietnam has attained near zero duty access covering 70 per cent of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 50 per cent of world trade.

It is the combination of FDI and FTAs that makes Vietnam a competitor to be reckoned with over the long term.

Vietnam also courts GVCs. In apparel and electronics, Vietnam has pursued an overwhelmingly FDI route and GVC without regard to domestic value addition, receiving FDI inflows of US$28 billion (11 per cent of GDP) in 2020. The objective has always been to expand exports and capture world markets thus creating jobs at home. In apparel it imports 85-90 per cent of inputs (i.e. fabrics and accessories) and in case of electronics import share is even more.

Domestic value addition in exports is extremely low as evidenced by the fact that exports of $281 billion in 2019 exceeded Vietnam’s GDP of $260 billion. That happens to highly trade-oriented economies (e.g. Singapore).

But anti-export bias prevails in Vietnam even with average tariffs of 6-7 per cent. What happens in Bangladesh with average protective tariffs of 27 per cent?

Vietnam’s local entrepreneurs are not focused on exports. It is the foreign-invested enterprises that dominate export activity. Not much different from Bangladeshi entrepreneurs outside the RMG sector.

The big policy questions for Bangladesh: Can we attract FDI in Bangladesh’s leading sector, RMG, without reservations? Can we sign FTAs with major regional markets or large economies? Current high tariffs are the major barrier.

Tariffs have to be slashed if FTA is the goal. To take advantage of GVCs, Bangladesh’s trade regime needs to be much more open with highly efficient customs administration to ensure seamless import[1]export of parts and components, i.e. intermediate goods.

The piece is slightly revised statement of Dr Zaidi Sattar, Chairman, Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh (PRI), at the webinar presentation of keynote paper, “Vietnam’s Superb Export Performance: Lessons for Bangladesh”, on 17 September, 2021.

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https://www.thedailystar.net/business/economy/news/govt-signs-trade-investment-deal-australia-2177096?amp

Published on 12:00 AM, September 16, 2021

Govt signs trade, investment deal with Australia

Aims to remove barriers

 

Bangladesh and Australia yesterday signed the Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA) to attract investment and eliminate trade barriers between the two countries.

This is the second bilateral trade-related platform for Bangladesh after it inked Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement with the US in November 2013.

Tipu Munshi, commerce minister of Bangladesh, and Dan Tehan, trade, tourism and investment minister of Australia, signed the deal at a virtual ceremony.

"We need foreign investment. Australia is a very potential country for us both for investment and as export destination," Munshi told The Daily Star after the event.

"The trade with Australia is growing. We are ready to approve Australian investment in any sector."

A big team from Australia is scheduled to visit Bangladesh in the first part of next year.

Both sides will hold meetings soon to formulate the guidelines of the Tifa and on how and when they will hold dialogues under the platform.

The Tifa is not related to duty preference and mainly concerns about investment. Currently, Bangladesh enjoys preferential duty benefits on exports to Australia as a least-developed country.

The Tifa, the first of its kind between Australia and Bangladesh in the last five decades, is expected to provide a platform for institutionalised economic interactions and to open newer opportunities for trade and investment.

A joint working group (JWG) will be formed under the Tifa with representations from relevant sectors and sub-sectors, according to a statement from the Bangladeshi high commission in Australia.

The JWG is expected to offer a mechanism to take forward discussions to realise fuller potentials of trade and investment.

"We would expect the Tifa to address all relevant questions, including the retention of the DFQF [duty-free, quota-free] treatment for Bangladesh in post-LDC graduation, trade liberalisation, creation of a conducive atmosphere for greater trade in services, and the flow of investment," said Munshi in the statement.

"The Morrison government is working to energise and expand the trade and investment relationship between Australia and Bangladesh, to support jobs and business opportunities in both countries," said Tehan.

He assured Bangladesh of the continuation of duty-free and quota-free treatment pending the next review, which is not scheduled in the foreseeable future.

"Australia has the potential to meet Bangladesh's increasing educational, training and energy needs. And we offer world-class expertise in agriculture and infrastructure development."

Bilateral trade has grown six times over the past decade. In the fiscal year of 2018-19, Bangladesh exported goods worth $804.63 million and imported merchandise valued $596.70 million, data from the commerce ministry showed.

Garment, agriculture, food and education services were key drivers of the trade growth. Australia is turning into a major source of raw cotton and lentil for Bangladesh.

Although it is not a legally binding agreement, the Tifa can help add new tradeable items from both sides and facilitate bilateral trade and investment.

Australia has proposed to host the inaugural meeting of the JWG in early 2022.

Speaking at the event, Sufiur Rahman, high commissioner of Bangladesh to Australia, said Australia could utilise Bangladesh as one of its major suppliers of manufactured goods.

"Australia can see Bangladesh as the entry point to the sub-regional market of more than 300 million people."

Munshi invited Tehan to visit Dhaka. The Australian minister warmly accepted the request and promised to visit Bangladesh next year with a trade and investment delegation.

Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Jeremy Bruer also spoke at the event.

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ইউএনইএসসিএপির নির্বাহী সচিবের সঙ্গে সাক্ষাতে অর্থমন্ত্রী

এলডিসিগুলোকে আন্তর্জাতিক সহায়তা দেয়া প্রয়োজন

নিজস্ব প্রতিবেদক

সেপ্টেম্বর ১৮, ২০২১

 

অর্থমন্ত্রী আ হ ম মুস্তফা কামাল বলেছেন, বাংলাদেশ এলডিসি থেকে উন্নয়নশীল দেশে উত্তরণের সঠিক পথে রয়েছে। তার পরও অপ্রত্যাশিত অভিঘাত কভিড-১৯ সৃষ্ট প্রতিবন্ধকতা হ্রাস করার লক্ষ্যে উত্তরণের যোগ্যতা অর্জনকারী এলডিসিগুলোকে ট্রানজিশন (উত্তরণ) এবং ট্রানজিশন-পরবর্তী পর্যায়ে আন্তর্জাতিক সহায়তা ও প্রণোদনা প্যাকেজ দেয়া প্রয়োজন। জাতিসংঘের আন্ডার সেক্রেটারি জেনারেল এবং এশিয়া ও প্রশান্ত মহাসাগরীয় অর্থনৈতিক ও সামাজিক কমিশনের (ইউএনইএসসিএপি) নির্বাহী সচিব আর্মিদা সালসিয়া আলিসজাহবানের সঙ্গে সাক্ষাত্কালে গতকাল এসব কথা বলেন অর্থমন্ত্রী। ভার্চুয়াল মাধ্যমে এ সাক্ষাৎ অনুষ্ঠিত হয়।

বাংলাদেশের অর্থনৈতিক সহনশীলতা ও প্রধানমন্ত্রীর দৃঢ় নেতৃত্বের কথা উল্লেখ করে অর্থমন্ত্রী বলেন, বাংলাদেশ ২০৩০ সালের মধ্যে এসডিজি লক্ষ্যমাত্রা অর্জন এবং ২০৪১ সালের মধ্যে একটি উন্নত ও সমৃদ্ধ দেশ হিসেবে প্রতিষ্ঠিত হওয়ার লক্ষ্যে পৌঁছানোর জন্য প্রতিশ্রুতিবদ্ধ। যদিও সব দেশের মতো কভিড-১৯ মহামারী আপাতত আমাদের অর্থনৈতিক অগ্রগতিতে বাধা সৃষ্টি করেছে। তার পরও প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনার এ কভিড-১৯ ক্রান্তিকালে গৃহীত বিচক্ষণ আর্থিক এবং মুদ্রানীতির কারণে আমরা চ্যালেঞ্জগুলো সফলভাবে পরিচালনা করতে পেরেছি। জীবন ও জীবিকার মধ্যে দূরদর্শী ভারসাম্য নিশ্চিত করে অর্থনৈতিক কার্যক্রমে স্বাভাবিকতা ফিরে আসছে। ২০২০ সালের আইএমএফের অক্টোবরের রিপোর্ট অনুযায়ী, বিশ্ব অর্থনীতিতে গড় ৪ দশমিক ৪ শতাংশের নেতিবাচক প্রবৃদ্ধি দেখা যায়, সেই সময়ে অতি অল্প কয়েকটি ইতিবাচক অর্থনীতির মধ্যে বাংলাদেশ অন্যতম। বেশ কয়েকটি আন্তর্জাতিক প্রতিষ্ঠানের জরিপ অনুযায়ী, মহামারী প্রতিকূলতার মধ্যেও বাংলাদেশ শীর্ষ পাঁচটি সহনশীল অর্থনীতির মধ্যে রয়েছে।

সাক্ষাতে আগামী ২০-২২ অক্টোবর অনুষ্ঠেয় ম্যাক্রোইকোনমিক পলিসি, পোভার্টি রিডাকশন অ্যান্ড ফাইন্যান্সিং ফর ডেভেলপমেন্ট (এমপিএফডি) সভায় বাংলাদেশের একটি উচ্চ পর্যায়ের প্রতিনিধি দলের সক্রিয়ভাবে অংশগ্রহণের বিষয়ে আলোচনা হয়। মন্ত্রী নীতিগত পরামর্শমূলক সেবা, সক্ষমতা বৃদ্ধি ও প্রযুক্তিগত সহায়তা দিয়ে নানাভাবে বাংলাদেশকে সাহায্য করায় ইউএনইএসসিএপির প্রতি কৃজ্ঞতা জ্ঞাপন করেন। পাশাপাশি বাংলাদেশের জন্য ইউএনইএসসিএপির সহায়তা অব্যাহত রাখতে এবং আরো শক্তিশালী করতে আশা ব্যক্ত করেন।

অর্থমন্ত্রী আশা ব্যক্ত করে বলেন, ইউএনইএসসিএপি এশিয়ান হাইওয়ে, ট্রান্স-এশিয়ান রেলওয়ে এবং ড্রাই পোর্টস উদ্যোগের ক্ষেত্রে শক্তিশালী ভূমিকা রাখতে পারে। তিনি থাইল্যান্ড, ভারত ও মিয়ানমারের ত্রিপক্ষীয় হাইওয়ে প্রকল্পে যোগদানের প্রচেষ্টায় বাংলাদেশকে সহায়তা করার ক্ষেত্রে ইউএনইএসসিএপিকে গুরুত্বপূর্ণ ভূমিকা পালনের অনুরোধ করেন। এর মাধ্যমে ইউএনইএসসিএপির আঞ্চলিক ও আন্তঃআঞ্চলিক উদ্যোগগুলো আরো বেশি জোরালো হবে।

সাক্ষাত্কালে ইউএনইএসসিএপির নির্বাহী সচিব আর্মিদা সালসিয়া আলিসজাহবান বাংলাদেশের অর্থনৈতিক অগ্রগতির প্রশংসা করেন। তিনি এ অপ্রত্যাশিত অভিঘাত কভিড-১৯ সংকট মোকাবেলায় ইউএনইএসসিএপি সহযোগিতা নিয়ে বাংলাদেশের পাশে থাকবেন বলে আশ্বস্ত করেন। পাশাপাশি তিনি বাংলাদেশে আরো চাহিদাভিত্তিক সক্ষমতা নির্মাণ প্রকল্প সহায়তার মাধ্যমে ইউএনইএসসিএপির কর্মপরিধি আরো বাড়ানোর আশা ব্যক্ত করেন।

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/economy/bangladesh/commerce-minister-seeks-support-to-ldcs-for-12-more-years-1631938704

Commerce minister seeks support to LDCs for 12 more years

 FE REPORT | Published:  September 18, 2021 10:18:24

Commerce minister Tipu Munshi has urged all parties to support a 12-year extension proposal by the LDC Group in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The extension will help the LDCs get preferential trade facility for easy transition of their graduation and post-graduation time.

Mr Tipu was addressing a virtual conference of the LDC commerce ministers through the UNCTAD secretariat at the UN office in Geneva on Thursday night.

Bangladesh has achieved development through utilising its duty-free, quota-free (DFQF) market facility and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), he said.

The DFQF facilities and preferential rules of origin for LDCs as per the WTO Hong Kong ministerial and Nairobi ministerial declarations must be provided by developed countries, Mr Tipu said.

He hopes the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) will provide effective assistance in increasing the productivity and infrastructural development of LDC countries.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic might hamper the progress made by the LDCs, he added.

The Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh is being tackled seriously by the government.

The minister says international cooperation is needed for further development of LDC countries.

 

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