For Legal Reforms In Bangladesh
the compliance of the World Trade Organisation
its readiness to become a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
from the very beginning of the founding or transformation of this organisation
from earlier GATT to present WTO on January 1, 1995 after the successful
completion of the Uruguay Round and thereby establishment of the WTO.
It is widely anticipated that the entry into the WTO will speed up the
economic development while providing foreign investors free access to
domestic markets and for more favourable environment for our export-oriented
industries. However the accession to the WTO raises some potential legal
challenges and to take the full advantage of the world trading system,
implementation of the WTO agreements is a must. It's a complete package,
either one have to accept the whole or reject the whole, there is no provision
for the partial implementation.
present legal system of Bangladesh will have to be reorganised at every
level to satisfy the requirements of the WTO. To meet this purpose, legal,
administrative, and judicial resources must be put into place to act as
efficient and integrated whole for the effective implementation of the
WTO agreements and to minimise the conflicts with other WTO members. This
short article will outline some of the major challenges for the legal
reforms in Bangladesh in line with the obligations of the WTO agreements.
and repealing laws or regulations
Bangladesh redoubled its efforts to reshape its legal environment in line
with WTO obligations just after the accession to the WTO. It is also noting
that a permanent Law Commission was established just one year after the
accession to the WTO by an Act of parliament in 1996. And the Government
has adjusted and is continuing to adjust its laws, regulations, and rules
governing such areas as international trade, foreign investment, intellectual
property protection and customs inspection, as well as arbitration and
dispute resolutions as per the directions of the law commission. Although
there is no specific direction to meet the WTO compliance while drafting
laws, over the years it is observed that most of the times the law commission
has given this prime concern while drafting any law.
In many areas regulated
by WTO rules, such as service, information technology, competition policy
and market monopoly, there are at present no applicable provisions within
the legal system of Bangladesh. In line with WTO commitment to open its
markets to various services and remove price controls, great changes in
laws and regulations is a must.
Bangladesh have to
make either new legislation or replace the century old legislation in
a number of areas. Mainly legislation related financial services, sale
of goods, carriage of goods, travel agencies, environmental services,
architectural services, medical services, education, engineering, transportation,
cargo-handling, customs-clearance services for maritime transport, maritime
agency services, aircraft repair and maintenance services, air transport
computer reservation services, freight transportation and forwarding by
rail and by road, and storage and warehousing etc.
laws and regulations not in conformity with WTO Bangladesh may need to
abolish laws, rules, and regulations that are unsuitable for modification
or contrary to WTO compliance and replace them, where necessary, with
To date, it has repealed
legislation regarding copyright repealing earlier law, enacted a new law
in 2000 and also introduced changes in the patent and trademarks legislation.
either amended or repealed a number of laws, till date there is no systematic
study so far, within the knowledge of this writer to examine the legal
system of Bangladesh in line with WTO obligations. Someone may think it
is not necessary, but to take the benefits under the WTO agreements and
to pose the threat and detrimental effects (if any), against the national
interest in the WTO agreements, a systematic study is a must to pave the
possible avenues to serve the national interest.
For example The State
Council of China after its accession to the WTO has examined all the administrative
regulations passed prior to 2001, and has already abolished 221 regulations.
China within a very short span of time (officially became a member of
the WTO on December 11, 2001) has modified laws, regulations, and rules
governing areas such as foreign investment, customs, intellectual-property
protection, foreign trade, foreign exchange, and insurance etc. In the
field of foreign trade alone, China has finished the revised drafts of
148 laws. Moreover, China either abolished or amended around 571 laws
after accession to the WTO due to conflicting with WTO rules.
administrative and judicial institutions
In addition to the necessary statutory changes, all the WTO members have
to ensure that all laws, regulations, and rules are applied and administered
in a uniform and impartial manner. To meet this purpose, programs for
the training and education of government employees, stakeholders and judges
to understand the WTO system is a must.
To ensure WTO compliance,
numerous changes in customs procedures and inspections dispute resolutions
and governmental screening systems are also necessary.
In addition, the government has to concentrate on shortening the customs
process, use of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and to modernise the
customs administration etc.
ICC arbitration centre in Bangladesh and newly enacted Arbitration Act
2001 replacing the earlier law of 1940 is a very positive step forward.
In addition to this, the government may create a body to handle WTO complaints
from foreign-funded enterprises. Finally, to protect the national interests,
the government has to take special care by providing legal and technical
assistance, arranging constant training and capacity building programs
and promoting research activities relating WTO rules.
The legal environment in Bangladesh, with the aid of presently established
Anti-Corruption Commission and if constitutional commitment is fulfilled
by the separation of the judiciary from the executive as per the direction
of the Supreme Court and along with the establishment of the office of
the Ombudsman and Human Rights Commission in the coming days, may step
forward towards ensuring transparent and sustainable legal system and
good governance in the country.
These efforts, combined
with the political commitment and the expectation of more changes to come
in the near future to meet the WTO compliance and protection of the national
interest as well, will make Bangladesh more thriving and prosperous. However,
it may take a longer time for Bangladesh to play an efficacious role under
the rules of a market-oriented economy. But within a favourable and smooth
legal system, after fulfilling the WTO compliance and framing strategies
for protecting national interest as well, within 10 to 15 years it may
transform into a mature and stable market-oriented economy and would be
able to take maximum benefits.
author is a Lecturer, Department of Law, University of Chittagong.