Dhaka seeks duty-waiver for 10-12 yrs past LDC graduation

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Bangladesh recently sought from the United Nations export duty waivers on its products for 10 to 12 years past its graduation from a least developed country (LDC) to a developing one in 2024, according to commerce secretary Mohammad Jafar Uddin, who said Dhaka has been lobbying with international forums, like the LDC group of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), for the waiver.

The reason is the country's economy, exports, supply chains and employment have been severely damaged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was quoted as saying by Bangla media reports.

The three prerequisites set by the UN Committee for Development Policy (UNCDP) to graduate from the LDC status are are gross national income, human assets index and economic vulnerability index. The UNCDP will assess the country's graduation requirements again next year.

The European Union (EU) had already announced that it will continue the zero-duty benefit for Bangladesh after the graduation for three more years as a grace period for preparations. But the Bangladesh commerce ministry sent a letter to the EU last month requesting continuation of the generalised system of preferences (GSP) under its Everything but Arms (EBA) initiative for 10 more years following the graduation.

Bangladesh has been enjoying the zero-duty benefit to the EU under the EBA since it gained independence in 1971.

Jafar Uddin also said as per the WTO's previous announcement, Bangladesh was supposed to be immune from the restrictions stemming from patent rights of medicine under its Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) up to January 1, 2033. However, there is a possibility of the abolishment of such facilities once the country makes the graduation.

"We demanded that the UN continue with the patent rights for our country up to 2033 as per the previous announcement," the commerce secretary added.