LDC graduation: Labour law amendment needed to obtain GSP plus status in EU, say experts
Experts today suggested the labour law needs amendment to improve human rights and workplace safety for obtaining Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) plus status in the European Union (EU) after Bangladesh's graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status to a developing nation in 2024.
If Bangladesh can obtain GSP plus status by fulfilling the conditions, local exporters will enjoy the same current trade benefits even after graduation to a developing country.
The labour issues like workplace harassment, child labour, unionism for freedom of association at factory level and strong implementation of the labour law should be amended for obtaining the GSP plus after graduation, said Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
Moazzem also suggested for a decision on improvement of labour rights based on tripartite consultation among workers' representatives, government and owners and wider use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method in resolving the labour dispute to save time and stop harassment of workers.
"Bangladesh has made much progress in labour rights and some progress is needed in some 9 to 10 other areas for further improvement," said Moazzem while he was presenting the keynote paper in a virtual discussion.
CPD and Networks Matter, a research firm based in Brussels jointly organised the discussion on 'EU's EBA & Prospect of GSP+ for Bangladesh: Addressing challenges related to Labour Laws and Rights'.
Due to lack of adequate number of labour courts and labour tribunals across the country, especially in the industrial zones, it takes a lot of time to resolve the disputes filed both by the workers and factory owners.
For instance, currently, some 20,000 cases are pending in the labour courts and some 10,000 cases remain to be resolved in labour tribunals, the speakers said at the discussion where diplomats, government high-ups, researchers and union leaders participated.
Obtaining the GSP plus status to the EU is important for Bangladesh because the EU trade bloc is the largest export destination of the country.
Some three-fifth of the total export and some two-third of the total garment export are destined for the EU with zero duty under the EU's generous Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.
But such a generous preference on export will be eroded when the country graduates to a developing country from the LDC in 2024, as per the rules of the EU GSP for the LDC. In case of the graduation, the EU allows three more years grace period for preparation.
That means Bangladeshi exporters will have to face nearly 12 percent duty on export to the EU after 2027 and a tough completion if the GSP plus status is not granted to the country by the EU.
The EU has already informed Bangladesh in several occasions over the last few years to ratify 27 international convention and improve in four core areas including improvement of labour rights, human rights, good governance and protection of environment for obtaining the GSP plus status.