The government should develop skills-driven competitiveness instead of traditional preference-driven strategy to fit the country's economy to face challenges stemming from probable losses of zero-tariff market access and other facilities following LDC graduation, economists said on Thursday.
The government also needs to restructure incentives, focusing on technology upgrade and skill formation, they also said at a virtual dialogue.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Bangladesh Office jointly organised the discussion titled "Upcoming MC12: Bangladesh's Expectations and Possible Stance".
The economists also suggested that Bangladesh pursue the proposal submitted by the LDC Group for extension of the International Support Measures for 12 years after graduating from the least developed countries ahead of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) to be held from 30 November.
Presenting a keynote, Professor Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the CPD, said some additional years of International Support Measures for the graduating LDCs will further provide an additional window to ensure a graduation with momentum and sustainability.
Bangladesh should take part in MC12 by taking cognisance of its three identities as an LDC, as a graduating LDC and as a future developing country, he also said.
Mustafizur stressed domestic homework in areas of reforms, institutional strengthening, infrastructure and capacity building, technological transformation, and skills enhancement and human capacity building to ensure the transition to skills- and productivity-driven competitiveness.
He suggested a triangulation of trade, investment and transport connectivity with proper logistics and trade facilitation towards strengthening development of regional value chains and production networks.
The economist also advocated for putting in place a "negotiating cell", with adequate human and financial resources and backed by the needed analytical capacities, to design Bangladesh's offensive and defensive interests and conduct the complex negotiations.
The government needs to negotiate with trading partners to get into the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement type Regional Trade Agreements, with a view to attracting efficiency-seeking FDI, targeting the regional markets, Mustafizur said.
He also suggested that the government urge the countries providing preferential market access to LDCs on a bilateral basis, such as the European Union, India, China, Japan, the United States, Canada and other development partners to extend the preferences for a time-bound period.
Faruque Hassan, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said in the post-graduation era, Bangladesh will have to face more competition as the country will eventually lose preferential market access.
He also said the country's RMG industry has developed a strong backward linkage and will remain competitive in the international market even after graduation.
Faruque emphasised the need for continued trade negotiation and domestic capacity building in view of the LDC graduation.
Hafizur Rahman, director general at WTO Cell of the commerce ministry, said the graduation related submission will be given the highest priority by the Bangladesh delegation in the upcoming meeting of the WTO.
The preferential market access and fisheries subsidy negotiation will be among negotiation priorities, he noted.
Dr Nazneen Ahmed, country economist at United Nations Development Programme, Bangladesh, said MC12 can be a platform for Bangladesh to uphold the situation of Bangladesh in the post-Covid period during the transition phase and seek support.
She suggested that the sub-committee for a smooth transition strategy accumulate observations of all committees and present them to the United Nations.