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Global trade negotiations will involve human rights: Debapriya

Staff Correspondent
20 Nov 2022 15:36:52 | Update: 20 Nov 2022 21:17:59
Global trade negotiations will involve human rights: Debapriya
Distinguished fellow of CPD Debapriya Bhattacharya speaks at a discussion organised at the CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka on Sunday — Collected Photo

Human rights will strongly be associated – along with other key issues such as environment and labour – with global trade negotiations in the coming days, says Centre for Policy Dialogue’s (CPD) Distinguished Fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya.

Addressing a discussion organised at CIRDAP auditorium in the capital on Sunday, he said, “At present, during negotiations, the World Trade Organization (WTO) are focusing not only on the quality of the products, but also on how the products are being produced.

“The WTO members now check whether the production processes are environment friendly and labour rights are being ensured. We should keep in mind that along the above mentioned factors, human rights issues will also be included in trade negotiations in the days ahead.”

The CPD and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Bangladesh organised this event, titled “Dialogue on WTO-MC12 Outcomes: Next Steps for Bangladesh as a Graduating LDC.”

Debapriya further said, “As Bangladesh is heading towards LDC [least developed country] graduation, there is also a kind of political transition going on in the country. In such a situation, policymakers need to ensure that one factor does not create problems for the other.”

German ambassador Achim Tröster believes it will not be easy for Bangladesh to achieve GSP plus facilities in EU countries after its LDC graduation.

He added, “During trade negotiations with the European Union (EU) issues such as human rights issues will prevail along with climate change. So, Bangladesh’s negotiation for GSP Plus with the EU will not be very easy.

“As a friend of Bangladesh, I want to say that the country should not expect a lot of flexibility about such negotiations.”

In their latest meeting, the WTO addressed problems currently being faced by the LDC countries, and they did not make any commitments to resolve those issues.

Highlighting this fact, speakers at Sunday’s discussion urged the Bangladesh government to think of something new.

CPD Distinguished Fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman said, “Bangladesh needs to change its thinking. The country must engage in bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, and make efforts to get the GSP Plus facility by thinking like a developing country.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) former vice president Arshad Jamal said, “A separate committee can be made for the readymade garment sector for GSP Plus negotiations.”

Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FBCCI) President Md Jashim Uddin said, “Aside from focusing on getting the GSP plus facility, we need to put more emphasis on diversifying our exports.

“In this regard, several other sectors including pharma, plastic and leather will be playing an important role.”

Commerce ministry Senior Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh said, “Despite not getting the GSP facility in the USA market, Bangladesh’s RMG sector has done well there. So what is preventing a post LDC country from doing well in the EU market?

“We will do well with the help of all stakeholders.”

Speaking as the chief guest, Standing Committee on Ministry of Commerce Member Yussuf Abdullah Harun said, “We are at some risk due to increasing dependence on one export item. We need to increase skills and productivity to diversify our export products.”

Commerce ministry’s WTO Cell Director General Md Hafizur Rahman, Tariff Commission’s former member Mostafa Abid Khan spoke at the event, while FES Resident Representative Felix Kolbitz made introductory remarks.