Dhaka to seek GSP Plus from Brussels
Bangladesh will seek to avail the GSP Plus facility, which will provide trade privileges after the country graduates from LDC status, during the 10th EU-Bangladesh Joint Commission meeting beginning in Brussels today.
Bangladesh's other priorities will include assistance for Rohingya repatriation, technology transfer for renewable energy and funds for development infrastructure, they added.
The EU will discuss human rights, democracy, labour rights and green transition at the meeting, officials connected to the meeting said.
Being among the least developed countries (LDCs), Bangladesh currently enjoys zero-duty benefit on exports to Europe under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).
After graduation from LDC status however, the GSP will not apply and Bangladesh will have to avail the GSP Plus facility for trade privilege. Bangladesh is set to graduate in 2026 and can continue to avail GSP until 2029.
Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Fatima Yasmin will lead the Bangladesh delegation and European External Action Service Deputy Managing Director (Asia and the Pacific) Paola Pampaloni will lead the EU delegation.
EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley recently said availing GSP Plus requires ratification and implementation of 32 international conventions on environmental, social and human rights standards. Bangladesh has ratified all of them, which many countries have yet to do, he said.
"Any transition is challenging. Any graduation, in our system that is GSP Plus, inevitably is quite challenging," he told The Daily Star on Thursday.
He added that unlike GSP, the GSP Plus has conditions attached.
"And those conditions are quite closely monitored once that transition happens. We are not monitoring these things intensely now but will start as we approach 2029," Whiteley said.
The joint commission meeting, which usually takes place every two years, is being held after almost three years due to the coronavirus pandemic. The last meeting was held in Dhaka on October 21, 2019.
Ahead of this year's meeting, a team of EU officials from Brussels carried out an official monitoring mission to Bangladesh from March 13-18.
It reviewed the country's progress in the context of enhanced engagement process under the Everything But Arms (EBA) arrangement, based on LDC status.
The mission had discussed issues relating to human rights and labour rights, particularly on Bangladesh's implementation of the National Action Plan on the Labour Sector and the compliance with human rights obligations.
"The EU conveyed to the Bangladeshi authorities the need to address all remaining issues in a timely and effective manner," according to the statement EU had put out at the time.
The EU imports about $19 billion (Tk 1.66 lakh crore approximately) worth of products from Bangladesh a year and also provides Bangladesh more than Tk 5,000 crore a year in development assistance.
"Trade is a very important area of cooperation with the EU. We will try to boost our trade relations with the EU," an ERD official told The Daily Star yesterday.
The EU has some issues that they discussed in the previous meeting in 2019, which they will bring to the table this time too.
"We will have our positions and present the progress we have made," said the ERD official, who wished to remain unnamed.
In 2019, the Joint Commission discussed the role of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, including the importance of holding free and fair elections. The EU had raised concerns on the situation of human rights, in particular reports of "extrajudicial killings", and "enforced disappearances".
The EU also raised concerns regarding certain provisions of the Digital Security Act and emphasised on improving labour rights in line with the International Labour Organisation Conventions.