LDCs are becoming increasingly globalised; however, strengthened integration of their economies continues to face formidable and multidimensional challenges. These relate to a host of issues including raising export competitiveness, overcoming market access barriers and addressing systemic concerns in global trading system. A number of issues of concern and interest to the LDCs, particularly in the areas of market access, trade facilitation, services sector development and waiver for the LDCs, aid for trade, special and differential treatment for the LDCs and making trade work for attaining SDG Goals and Targets, among others, have become critically important from the perspective of the LDCs. The present programme aims to undertake a number of activities to advance LDC interests particularly in the context of the emerging multinational trading system and in view of the ongoing negotiations in the WTO. It is reckoned that, the aforesaid emerging needs will call for addressing six important tasks:(i) rigorous evidence-based research in areas which could promote trade interests to the LDCs; (ii) examination of implications of the developments in the global trading system for the economies of the LDCs; (iii) informed participation of LDCs in WTO negotiations; (iv) identification of appropriate strategies that could promote interests of LDCs as a group in various concerned fora; (v) raising awareness of key stakeholders in trade-related issues through policy advocacy and dissemination and (vi) trade-related capacity building through trainings and dialogues. The proposed programme aims to address these felt-needs through various activities under the aforementioned programme. In view of this, the programme seeks to undertake an indepth research to articulate offensive and defensive interests of the LDCs in global trading system and in view of the negotiations in the WTO.
This programme is being implemented jointly by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Bangladesh and South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal with support from Opportunity Fund of Think Tank Initiative (TTI-OF).
The study is being conducted by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a TTI Grantee think tank, in collaboration with South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), a non-TTI Think Tank in Kathmandu, Nepal (an LDC) established in 1999. CPD will be the anchor institution for implementation of the programmatic activities. SAWTEE will be CPD’s strategic and knowledge partner in implementing the programme. The objectives and proposed activities envisaged under the programme are very much in line with long term institutional objectives of both CPD and SAWTEE. CPD, as a TTI grantee, has set itself the task of strengthening institutional capacity to contribute to policymaking in Bangladesh and advancing LDC interests globally, through research, outreach and policy influencing. The programme will complement and leverage CPD’s TTI support. SAWTEE’s institutional vision is to promote the cause of inclusive growth in South Asia through research, partnerships and advocacy. Trade is an important focus of SAWTEE in this regard. The programme will also be able to take advantages of two global networks hosted by the CPD, LDC IV Monitor and Southern Voice on post-2015 International Goals (SV). SAWTEE maintains a strong network with think tanks particularly in South Asia. CPD and SAWTEE will be able to draw on the strengths of these networks to involve a wider community of professionals and institutions in undertaking research, building trade-related capacities and influencing policies that will secure LDC interests in the WTO.
- Six Working Papers articulating issues of interest, future challenges, negotiating stance of LDCs in view of WTO negotiations in Geneva.
- Six Policy Briefs based on research and emerging issues for use by policymakers.
- Ten blog posts based on research outputs, comments on relevant research issues and issues of LDC concerns for wider and popular dissemination of knowledge on LDC-related trade issues.
- YouTube streaming of dialogues and research results, lessons learned.
The proposed study is envisaged to cover a period of two years (March 1, 2016 – February 28, 2018) keeping two key milestones in the background and in perspective: WTO’s MC-10 which was held in December 2015 and MC-11 to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 10 to 13 December 2017.
Two core research teams from CPD and SAWTEE separately but in coordination with each other are involved in the ongoing research works under the programme. An advisory committee is formed to guide and monitor progress of the studies. Similarly, besides of core advisory committee there are experts involved depending on the concept of the research. Information on members of core research and advisory committee are only presented in the website.
Member of Study Team
Lead Researcher from CPD: Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, CPD
Lead Researcher from SAWTEE: Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman, SAWTEE
Associate Researchers: At CPD
- Mr Towfiqul Islam Khan, Research Fellow, CPD
- Mr Md. Zafar Sadique, Senior Research Associate, CPD (also Programme Coordinator of this programme)
- Mr Estiaque Bari, Research Associate, CPD
- Ms Sherajum Monira Farin, Research Associate, CPD
- Ms Sarah Sabin Khan, Research Associate, CPD
Associate Researchers: At SAWTEE
- Mr Asish Subedi, Senior Programme Officer, SAWTEE
- Ms Pragati Koirala, Research Associate, SAWTEE
- Mr Abyaya Neopane, Intern, SAWTEE
To ensure that the programme activities are implemented according to work plan and that high standard of work is maintained, an ‘Advisory Panel’ consisting of CPD senior professionals has been constituted to guide the programme. The Panel is tasked to give appropriate advice and direction towards successful implementation of the programme in the course of the programme lifetime including in terms of identification of research themes, review of draft papers, policy influencing and dissemination of outputs. The members of the Panel are:
- Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD
- Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, Distinguished Fellow, CPD
- Ms Anisatul Fatema Yousuf, Director, Dialogue & Communication, CPD
Under the TTI Opportunity Fund project six research works will be conducted. Of which four studies will be conducted by CPD and other two studies will be conducted by SAWTEE. As of now, three studies (mentioned below) are ongoing while others are in the inception stages.
Study 1: The Emerging New Trade Alliance Scenario: Why the LDCs Should be Concerned?
Study 2: WTO Decision on Pharmaceuticals: Realising the potential opportunities by LDCs
Study 3: WTO Services Waiver: Exploring opportunities and challenges for Nepal
Study 4: WTO MC-XI: Issues of interests to the LDCs
Study 5: Plurilateral Negotiations on e-commerce and their implications for the LDCs
Study 6: Yet to be decided
(i) The Emerging New Trade Alliance Scenario: Why the LDCs Should be Concerned?
The global trading regime is becoming increasingly fragmented. The vision of building a multilateral trading system anchored in the WTO has come under serious threat. Negotiations under the Doha Development Round (DDR) are practically stalled. In this backdrop, one sees a proliferation of regional trade agreements (RTAs) and mega-RTAs in the global trading scenario. In view of this emergent scenario, the CPD study examines the implications of some selected RTAs for the trade interests of Bangladesh and other LDCs. The questions asked are:
- What are the reasons for proliferation of RTAs?
- What are the implications of the mega-RTAs for market access of the LDCs?
- What these mega-RTAs mean for the WTO and multilateral trading system?
- How should LDCs strategise in view of the above?
An extensive literature review was carried out to establish the benchmark. Analysis was undertaken to identify how these are likely to impact on LDC trade interests. Study findings suggest that these mega-RTAs will impact adversely on market access and competitiveness of LDCs that are not members of these trading blocs. CPD researchers interviewed a number of experts to draw insights on potential consequences of mega-RTAs on Bangladesh. The draft is being finalised at present for publication and wider dissemination. Preliminary findings have been shared with broader audience through Op-eds and media interviews by CPD researchers. Some early findings emanating from the study have been disseminated through various Independent Review of Bangladesh’s Development (IRBD) reports, a flagship programme of the CPD. Dr Mustafizur Rahman presented some of the findings at the Session on Trade Interests of South Asian Countries at the Ninth South Asian Economic Summit (SAES IX) organised by the CPD in Dhaka on 15-16 October 2016.
(ii) WTO Decision on Pharmaceuticals: Realising Potential Opportunities by the LDCs
As may be recalled, decision was taken at the WTO-TRIPS Council to grant the LDCs an exemption from obligations to implement or apply or enforce patents as well as data protection for pharmaceutical products until January 1, 2033. This decision was subsequently endorsed at the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference (WTO MC-X) in Nairobi. As is known, earlier LDCs were accorded similar opportunity under the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Pharmaceuticals in 2001. These decisions are very important for Bangladesh which has a strong pharmaceutical sector. The need to make use of the WTO-TRIPS decision, on an urgent basis, is particularly relevant as Bangladesh is set to finally graduate from the LDC category by the year 2024. In this backdrop, the study examines a number of questions:
- What is the relevance of WTO-TRIPS decision for Bangladesh and other LDCs?
- What has been global experience and learning with regard to reaping benefits originating from the decision?
- What are the challenges that Bangladesh and other LDCs face in realising the potential benefits of the decision?
- What could be the policy recommendations towards maximising potential benefits of TRIPS decision of the WTO?
The study is now being finalised. The study benefitted from the event organised under this programme by the CPD in February 2017 where aglobally renowned expert Ms Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Professor, Graduate Program in International Affairs (GPIA), The New School, New York shared her views on a range of pertinent issues. The presentation and the subsequent discussion focused on the global regime in trade in medicines, the role of pharmaceutical sector in countries such as Bangladesh and importance of the TRIPS decision of the WTO for the LDCs. Early findings of the study have been shared through Op-eds and media briefing and at FGDs with representatives of pharmaceutical sector in Bangladesh.
(iii) WTO Services Waiver: Exploring Opportunities and Challenges for Nepal
Experiences of economic development in many developing countries indicate that the process of industrialisation brings changes in the structure of the economy: as industrialisation take off, the share of agriculture in output and employment falls and the share of manufacturing and services correspondingly rises. The structure of the output of Nepal shows significant change over the last few decades. The services sector has posted a growth which is almost double the corresponding rates for agriculture and industry sectors during the last decade. Decomposition of Nepal’s GDP growth by sectoral contribution shows that services sector’s contribution stood at an impressive 82 per cent. However, services sector could not generate corresponding employment to bring out structural change in the employment dynamics in the last decade. As may be recalled, the 14th Development Plan (2016/17-2018/19) of Nepal has proposed an employment focused development path and the services sector has been identified as a key high employment generating sector. The challenge is to harness the potential opportunities of developing the services sector towards structural transformation of economies such as Nepal.
Against the background, the study conducted under the TTI Opportunity Fund assessed LDC requests and WTO members’ responses in relation to the sectors and activities identified in Nepal Trade Integration Strategy 2016 (NTIS 2016). The study recommends policy interventions at the national level and negotiating strategy/ issues in the context of the WTO. Specifically, the study deals with the following issues:
- What are the sectors and destination markets to be prioritised/ focused to utilise the WTO services waiver for the LDCs?
- What are the barriers Nepalese service and service exporters face in the export of services in destination market?
- How to ensure domestic preparedness in services export for priority service sectors?
- What should be the negotiating position/ agenda in services negotiation?
The study team has been mobilised and literature review and secondary data collection and analyses have been completed. Early findings of the study were discussed at a workshop titled ‘WTO Services Waiver: Exploring Opportunities and Challenges for Nepal’ organised by SAWTEE in collaboration with the Government of Nepal on 9 July 2017. 35 participants including government officials, professionals and private sector stakeholders attended the workshop. Key informant interviews are in progress and will be completed in two weeks. A national seminar will be organised in the third week of August 2017 to disseminate and validate the findings.
- A session titled “Health and global trade regime: Is it affecting equal access to medicines?” was organised by the CPD on 13th February 2017
- A dissemination seminar titled ‘WTO Services Waiver: Exploring Opportunities and Challenges for Nepal’ organised by SAWTEE in collaboration with the Government of Nepal on 9 July 2017
- Trade Appreciation Workshop – scheduled on 26 August 2017 by CPD
- Dialogue in view WTO MC-XI – scheduled October 2017 by CPD