Bangladesh should negotiate issues related to trade benefits at the 13th Ministerial Conference, or MC13, of the World Trade Organization (WTO) not as a least developed country but as a future non-LDC developing country to make the graduation sustainable, economists and experts have said.

At a Knowledge Sharing Session, on ‘13th Ministerial Conference of the WTO: What Stakes for Bangladesh?’, on Thursday, they said that at the upcoming MC13, the LDC should advocate for extending trade benefits for graduating LDCs.

Local think tank Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID), with support from the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Offices of the United Kingdom, organised the programme at the National Press Club in Dhaka.

The MC13 will be held in Abu Dhabi from February 26–29.

The prime minister’s Economic Adviser Mashiur Rahman attended the programme as the chief guest. Former senior secretary Sharifa Khan, Centre for Policy Dialogue Distinguished Fellow Mustafizur Rahman, trade policy analyst Mostafa Abid Khan, RAPID Chairman MA Razzaque, RAPID Executive Director Dr M Abu Eusuf, Prothom Alo Head of Online Shawkat Hossain Masum, and Financial Express Planning Editor Asjadul Kibria spoke at the event.

Experts at the event said that WTO members would have differing priorities for MC13.

Securing an agreement on fisheries subsidy negotiation, embarking on border reforms, and a dysfunctional dispute settlement system would be the key issues at the conference, they said.

Mustafizur said that Bangladesh would have to keep in mind the interest of the developing country during the negotiation in the WTO.

He said that Bangladesh would have to prepare for some reforms as the country would graduate in November 2026. After graduation, Bangladesh would not get TRIPS weaver and the country would pay for the patent licence to produce medicine.

Bangladesh should go for reverse engineering which could allow the country to use the formula without paying any charge, he said.

Regarding fisheries subsidy, Mustafizur said that Bangladesh would face challenges on the issue after graduation as a subsidy would allow for a developing country if its share of the global marine fish catch does not exceed 0.8 per cent but the share of Bangladesh crossed the threshold.

Saying the government agencies consider the exact hilsa as marine fish but the country extracts it from river bodies, he suggested that Bangladesh should revise its calculation of marine fish catch.

The economist also said that in the upcoming MC Bangladesh would have to support the proposal of India, which proposed to allow subsidies within the exclusive economic zone.

Mashiur said that after the LDC graduation, Bangladesh would not be entitled to TRIPS weaver and the pharmaceutical sector would face pressure as the country made some delay in preparing to face the challenges. 

He said that Bangladesh still has no preparation to extract marine resources or a blue economy.

A separate ministry of a dedicated agency is needed to extract the marine resources, he said.

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