LDC graduation: Discussions at WTO for facilities of 12 more years

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Discussions are going on in full swing at the World Trade Organization (WTO) about a proposal on the continuation of trade facility to least developed countries (LDCs) for 12 years after graduation.

Last December, African country Chad as the chair of LDCs made the proposal at the WTO general council. Since then, representatives of the LDCs started discussing the proposal at different levels.

Now efforts are on to include the proposal in the agenda of the WTO ministerial conference to be held in Geneva, Switzerland in November next.

The proposal for the extension of trade facilities support is very important for Bangladesh. On 26 February, United National’s Committee for Development Policy (CDP) recommended graduating Bangladesh from the LDC status. If everything goes fine, Bangladesh will graduate from the LDC status in 2026.

On behalf of the LDCs, they proposed for an extension of trade facilities for 12 years after graduation to ensure sustainable development. If the WTO adopts the proposal, Bangladesh may enjoy the LDC trade facility until 2038.

About the matrter, distinguished fellow of Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Mustafizur Rahman told Prothom Alo that the proposal placed by Chad is very important for Bangladesh.

According to a WTO survey, Bangladesh will face 90 per cent of the loss that 12 LDC graduating countries will incur if they lose trade facilities. So, Bangladesh can play a strong role in implementing the proposal placed by Chad, he added.

What it is happening at WTO?

The WTO general council, held in Geneva on 1, 2 and 4 March, has accepted Chad’s proposal and recommended continuing talks on it. No member country opposed the proposal. On 1 March, new WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala took over charge. She is the first woman and African head of the WTO. Since joining office, she has included the issue of LDC graduation in various trade talks.

According to sources at the WTO headquarter, LDCs have come together on the proposal of Chad. The Group of LDCs will now sit with the countries with big economy. The LDC countries share 1 per cent of the global trade. So, if any country enjoys trade facility even after the graduation, no major change will happen in global trade.

Currently, pharmaceutical companies in Bangladesh do not need to pay the inventing companies for patent rights. Paying for patent rights may increase price of medicines and poor people will loss access to medicine at reasonable prices. Now Bangladesh can provide subsidies on various products and services of industry and agriculture sector to survive in the competitive market. Cash assistance is given on export earnings or remittance. Objection may be raised against these privileges if the country is graduated from the LDC status. Besides, loan with easy terms and condition and low interest from international aid agencies would also be difficult.

Who are LDCs?

The United Nations has categorised the countries in two classes considering economic and social factors – developing and developed. In 1971, the UN recognised some of the developing countries as the least developed countries (LDCs) as they have weaker economy.

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna