CPD organised a media briefing on two recent global events COP21 and WTO MC-10 and What do they mean for Bangladesh? on Wednesday 23 December 2015.
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Published in the Daily Star on Thursday, 24 December 2015
Star Business Report
Bangladesh did not gain much from the 10th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation in Kenya as global leaders failed to reach a consensus on key deals, analysts said yesterday.
The leaders failed to agree on a deal, among others, that would have extended meaningful duty-free access to goods from poor nations to developing and developed ones.
While the least-developed countries like Bangladesh currently enjoy duty-free access for 97 percent of its goods thanks to a consensus reached at the fifth ministerial meet in Hong Kong, it is not turning out to be very beneficial for them.
The reason is, many countries are leaving out the major export items of the LDCs from the list of products that qualify for duty-free access.
For instance, Bangladesh’s main export item, garment, does not qualify for duty-free access to the US, its major shipping destination.
But African LDCs, for whom garment is not a major export item, enjoy duty-free access to the US.
Bangladesh tried to raise this issue at the WTO conference in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi but did not get any support from the African LDCs, said Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, at a press briefing at the Brac Centre Inn in Dhaka.
The CPD research team also joined the Bangladeshi delegation in Nairobi for the four-day WTO meeting that came to an end on December 19.
The think-tank organised the press conference to deliver its formal reaction on the recently concluded WTO meeting.
Rather, the developed countries agreed to suspend subsidies on cotton so that four African countries can benefit from cotton trade worldwide, he said. “Here, I want to say, in future, the cotton price might go up globally, as the developed countries’ decision of suspension of subsidies will come into effect soon.”
In this case, Bangladesh will have to import cotton at higher prices, as the country is poised to be the highest cotton importer this season, surpassing China.
The world leaders also could not advance the discussion on the waiver in services to a satisfactory level at the meeting, he said.
“In this case too, the discussion remained unfinished and again the LDCs lost the opportunity.”
The world leaders also could not show any good progress in ratifying the Trade Facilitation Agreement that was adopted at the ninth WTO ministerial conference in Indonesia in 2013.
“Finally, I will say the discussion at the WTO was not inclusive, as some major players such as India, Brazil, China, the EU and the US discussed exclusively in the meeting.”
Rahman now advised the government to find ways to sign agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, through which it can get duty-free access for its garment products.
Echoing the views of Rahman, Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of the CPD, also suggested the government devise a strong trade strategy so that the country can be more competitive in the changed global scenario.
Bangladesh will have to consider three important issues while formulating the strategies, Bhattacharya said.
They are: continuing the leadership of the LDC group in the WTO, joining bilateral and multilateral trade agreements like the EU and the TPP, and playing strong roles in the regional and sub-regional trade deals like the South Asian Free Trade Area.
“Bangladesh should strengthen the research as many things are happening and will happen in the repositioning of the global scenario like unstable global security challenge and climate change impacts,” Bhattacharya said.
The global leaders though managed to strike a deal on the relaxation of rules of origin of products, which will be beneficial for LDCs. Rules of origin are the criteria needed to determine the national source of a product.
From now, LDCs will enjoy duty-free access if only 25 percent value is added in their respective countries, even if the raw materials were sourced from other countries, Rahman said.
In other words, a product will qualify as “made in an LDC” even if manufacturers use imported materials up to 75 percent of the final value of the product.
Published in Dhaka Tribune on Thursday, 24 December 2015
Bangladesh needs to make a work plan on future trade negotiations amidst rising multilateral trade agreements, which came to the fore in recently ended two global events—10th WTO Ministerial Conference and COP21, Centre for Policy Dialogue said yesterday.
Bypassing the universal trade system, some countries were engaged in trade talks to secure preferential deals among themselves and this development demands a new strategy for the least developed countries (LDCs), it said.
The CPD came up with the recommendations and observations while briefing on the recent two global events – WTO MC-10 and COP21: What do they mean for Bangladesh?. COP21 climate summit was held in Paris, France and WTO MC-10 in Nairobi, Kenya recently.
CPD distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya said the world is changing in global economic geography. Many countries are being involved with multilateral trade-platforms, like TPP. In this situation, a work plan or writing a white-paper should be prepared right now for trade talks, he said.
He said: “We want to keep confidence in universal system as we believe in universalism. But we have been noticing that the world has been changing in trade negotiation in the form of different blocks and alliances.”
What has been experienced in Nairobi is that southern countries are joining hands with the US and India while China and Brazil were engaged in meeting without the host country, Kenya, he said.
“So, you can understand where the world is going. If this happens, what might be steps for countries like Bangladesh?” he posed a question.
Debapriya said it is very important for Bangladesh to take advantage of changing world right at this moment as Bangladesh is gradually being involved with the global economy though regional economic block is limited.
“This demands co-ordination among public agencies and ministries, flow of information, cooperation and leadership. Because in Bangladesh, decision is taken, but not implemented.”
Presenting on outcome of WTO MC, CPD Executive Director Professor Mustafizur Rahman who took part in the conference, said WTO ministerial conference is very disappointing as except relaxation rules of origin, no concrete decisions were taken on other issues.
“However, we have to make our efforts continuously for protecting the interest of least developed countries because the rule-based system is very good for weak economies.”
Presenting on the outcome of COP21 climate summit, CPD Research Director Fahmida Khatun said no perfect agreement was made in the summit, but it is a stepping stone for taking things forward.
She said implementing a legally-binding agreement to cut carbon dioxide gas emission is very challenging as it stills remains as non-binding nature.
Published in The Financial Express on Thursday, 24 December 2015
Suggests strategic preparations to reap benefits
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) expressed its disappointment over the outcome of the WTO 10th Ministerial Conference, as the world trade accord skipped free market access of products from poorer countries like Bangladesh.
Reappraising two major global deals struck at two meets in recent times, the policy think tank, however, expressed “restrained exuberance” about the outcome of Paris climate conference, styled COP21 (Conference of Parties) that pledges reduction in carbon-dioxide emission along with compensation package for victim countries.
“We are not frustrated but critical about the 10th World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial declaration as interests of least developed countries (LDCs) mostly remained unattended alongside very little success,” said CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya.
“In case of climate conference, an agreement was signed but it was also not an ideal one,” he said while briefing journalists on the outcome of the recently-concluded two big international events.
To reap benefit from the world talks, the economist said, the country needs to devise its plans, find out its opportunities, prepare itself by conducting more research on further negotiations.
At the same time, he also called for Bangladesh’s active participation in various regional and sub-regional groups and platforms and in international discussions.
The country also needs to continuously review and monitor the international developments taking place in the field of trade, business, investment, financing and so on.
“Bangladesh needs to be integrated with world economy gradually and should prepare itself in this line,” also said Mr Debapriya.
The CPD also found the discussions not transparent and inclusive, as big economic powers dominated the proceedings.
“The EU, the USA, India, China, Brazil mainly participated in the negotiations which were dominated mostly by the EU and the USA,” said CPD Executive Director Prof Mustafizur Rahman.
He came up with the observations while presenting the keynote paper on ‘WTO 10th Ministerial Conference: Reflections from Bangladesh Perspective’.
Commerce Minister Mr Tofail Ahmed attended the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial conference held in Nairobi on December 15-19 as the coordinator of LDC group in the World Trade Organisation.
The minister at a press conference on return from the Kenyan capital said the WTO ministerial declaration would bring huge trade benefits through goods and services originating from Bangladesh in the markets of industrial nations as at least four major issues included in the document would serve Bangladesh’s interests.
The CPD, however, differed with the minister’s outlook about the outcome of the conference.
The ministerial declaration agreed, among others, on relaxed rules of origin (ROO) for exports from the least-developed countries (LDCs) as well as services waiver.
“Except relaxation of the Rules of Origin there is hardly any benefit for Bangladesh,” said Prof Mustafiz.
Services waiver was extended as the earlier deadline expires this year but the conference did not notify the preferences under the waiver.
According to Mustafiz, the much-talked-about duty-free quota-free market access of the LDCs also did not receive any serious attention because of non-cooperation from some members of LDC group, especially African countries.
The major issues of deadlock were reduction in agriculture subsidy and continuation of the Doha Round of trade negotiations. The ministerial declaration observed major differences as regards approaches as to how to address the negotiations.
The developed members, however, agreed to remove export subsidies immediately, except for a handful of agriculture products, and developing countries will do so by 2018. A number of countries are currently using export subsidies to support agricultural exports.
With withdrawal of export subsidy on cotton, the cost of cotton, the CPD executive director said, might increase even in Bangladesh within a couple of years.
There was a pledge for US$ 90 million from developed and developing nations as aid for trade over the next few years.
“But the pledge is not enough. No mention of financial needs of the LDCs in view of Diagnostic Trade Integration Study,” said Mustafiz.
“If a rule-based agreement is not in place, many regional groups would dictate smaller countries, which might not prove helpful for Bangladesh,” he told the press.
Bangladesh needs to be engaged closely in these negotiations with special responsibility as coordinator of the LDC group in the WTO, he suggested.
CPD research director Dr Fahmida Khatun, who presented a paper on ‘COP (Conference of Parties) 21: Bangladesh perspective’, said the Paris agreement ended up balanced politically but not morally. It does not reflect climate justice and did not fully reflect the ‘polluter-pay principle’.
The number of people displaced by the effects of climate change is increasing everyday but the agreement did not mention ‘Climate Refugee’ problem.
“Adaptation and loss and damage are left in murky waters, No legal actions can be taken,” said Fahmida in her evaluation paper.
The Paris agreement reached two major issues of negotiations: Carbon dioxide emission and finance. The agreement, called Paris outcome, states limiting global temperature rises within 1.5-2.0 degrees Celsius threshold for the current century.
However, the deal doesn’t mention any legal binding for implementation of the agreement. Developed countries agreed that US$ 100 billion annually would be the floor for climate finance going forward beyond 2020.
Although the agreement recognizes the concept of “Loss and Damage”, the decision made it clear that developed countries will not accept liability for climate compensation.
“Without continuous and ambitious measures from big emitter-countries, combat against climate change cannot succeed,” said the CPD policy analyst.
Published in The Independent on Thursday, 24 December 2015
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) has expressed frustration over the outcome of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference 10 (WTO-MC 10) and COP 21 in Paris.
“The discussion at WTO-MC 10 was not inclusive. Basically, five countries dominated the conference,” said distinguished fellow of CPD Debapriya Battacharya. He was handling Q&A at the media briefing on the two recent global events at BRAC Centre Inn yesterday.
Executive Director of CPD Mustafizur Rahman gave a presentation on the outcome of WTO-MC 10, while Fahmida Khatun made one on that of COP 21.
Prof Mustafizur said Nairobi MC 10 was an opportunity to ensure coherence and contribute towards attaining IPoA and Agenda 2030 in the context of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through trade-related support and strengthened global integration of LDCs.
According to CPD, in the end, MC-10 will be able to salvage the Doha Round, but the emergence of deep divisions will have important ramifications for WTO’s future in terms of the Doha Development Round (DDR) agenda, system issues, approach to negotiations etc. CPD said that the discussion in Nairobi was not transparent and inclusive. It pointed out that while the European Union, the USA, India, China and Brazil mainly participated in the negotiations; it was the EU and the USA which dominated them.
The MC-10 declaration observed that members had different views on how to address negotiations. The declaration said that members strongly commit to addressing marginalisation of LDCs in international trade and improve their effective participation in the multilateral trading system.
“Towards that end, we will ensure that all issues of specific interest to LDCs are pursued on a priority basis, with a view to strengthening, making them commercially meaningful, and when appropriate, legally binding,” according to CPD.
Among the decisions taken, CPD said the conference, in particular, announced a significant raise in the exports of developing countries with a view to doubling the least developed countries’ share of global exports by 2020. Dr Mustafizur demanded that Bangladesh be closely engaged in these negotiations, given its position as the coordinator of the LDC group in WTO.
CPD emphasised on continued negotiations till the DDR Agenda is addressed. “Limit negotiation to what is feasible, wrap up the round, and start a new round,” said Dr Mustafizur.
About the $100 billion fund for climate change, Dr Fahmida said that Bangladesh has raised the demand that the fund for climate change be given as grant. However, she said the fund should be considered as an additional fund.
Referring to the declaration, Dr Fahmida said there is no clear clause about the fund as to how developed countries will provide it.
Published in New Age on Thursday, 24 December 2015
Outcome of WTO’s MC10 frustrating for B’desh: CPD
The Centre for Policy Dialogue on Wednesday termed the outcome of the 10th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation frustrating for the least developed countries like Bangladesh.
At a press briefing on the outcomes of two global events on UN climate change and WTO ministerial conference in Dhaka, the CPD said that the LDCs did not get any additional benefits, except flexibility on preferential rules of origin, from the conference held at Nairobi in Kenya in December 15-18 as there was no development on duty-free and quota-free market access, aid for trade and preferential waiver on trade of services.
UN climate change conference, known as COP21, was held in Paris of France from November 30 to December 12.
Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed who led the Bangladesh delegation to the conference, however, on Monday termed the conference successful saying that the ministerial declaration would bring huge trade benefits for goods and services originating from Bangladesh.
‘We were enormously successful in addressing issues of Bangladesh and other 47 least developed countries at the conference,’ he said at a post-conference press briefing at the ministry in Dhaka.
Elaborating, the minister said the Nairobi Declaration lowered the rules of origin or value addition criteria to 25 per cent for LDCs in their way to get duty-free market access to developed countries from the existing 30 per cent to 40 per cent depending on country to country.
In reply to a question regarding the commerce minister’s claim, CPD executive director Mustafizur Rahman said that everyone might have personal evaluation whether the conference was successful or not.
‘But as a citizen and trade expert, I must say that the outcome of the conference is very frustrating for the LDCs including Bangladesh as it did not bring any additional benefit, except relaxation in rules of origin, in the field of preferential market access, services waiver and aid for trade.’
He said, ‘We expected more progress in the ministerial conference than the Geneva discussion in November.’
The modality of discussion was not inclusive as mainly USA, EU, China, India and Brazil dominated the negotiations keeping outside the LDCs, main stakeholders of the conference, he said.
‘The conference failed to bring any headway in preferential market access to the LDCs except relaxation in rules of origin which I can say a small mercy,’ CPD distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya said.
He said that the conference was held in a time when some big countries and regions were moving with the idea of creating plurilateral mega blocks of preferential trade beyond the WTO.
Bangladesh should prepare an action plan on how to reap the benefits from the multilateral, plurilateral, regional and bilateral trading system within and out of WTO in the changed context of global economy, he said.
The country will also have to conduct research and evaluation on how to utilise the emerging opportunities from the pluralateral trade agreements including US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, he said.
Bangladesh may consider joining at the TPP or sign bilateral agreement with a member country for getting duty-free market access to the US, he suggested.
Coordination among the government agencies in global negotiations on preferential market access, investment, services waiver, climate change and transfer of technology is required, he said.
On the outcome of COP21, the CPD said that the Paris agreement was not a perfect agreement though it was considered as a historic one.
‘Though the major green house gas emitting countries pledged to cut emission to a certain level by 2030, the pledge is not legally binding one,’ CPD research director Fahmida Khatun said.
But for the developing countries, the major issue is finance for adaptation to fight adverse effect of climate change, she said.
Though the countries pledged to provide climate finance to the developing countries but previous experiences said that the commitment remained unfulfilled, she added.
CPD additional research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem and senior research fellow Towfiqul Islam Khan were present at the briefing.