MC12 and its implication for Bangladesh as a graduate LDC
Ferdaus Ara Begum |
Nov. 11, 2021, 7:56 p.m.
Nov. 11, 2021, 8:14 p.m.
The 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the highest decision-making body of the WTO, will be held from November 30 to December 3, 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland. MC12 was scheduled to be held in June 2020 in the capital of Kazakhstan. He could not stand due to the Covid-19 situation. The 12th Ministerial Conference will be chaired by the Minister of Trade and Integration of Kazakhstan, in accordance with the decision of WTO members in 2019.
The agenda has been discussed and further preparations for the conference are nearing completion. The Ministerial Conference is expected to give impetus to the activities of the WTO which have been almost at a standstill in recent years. The Bangladesh Ministry of Commerce, as the lead ministry, is working on preparations for the conference, as there are specific issues that LDC graduates can derive some return on investment from. This is the first ministerial conference for Bangladesh that the country will join as an announced LDC graduate – a situation that is both prestigious and difficult. Bangladesh must now play its cards very carefully because the situation is changing very quickly, with the emergence of Covid19. Today, the 163 member countries of the WTO are well aware and cautious when taking advantage of the negotiating table of this highly regulated and rules-based organization.
One of the main important issues on the agenda is the elimination of fishing subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and the prohibition of such subsidies, while overfishing and overfishing clearly cause problems. major ecological, economic and social damage. The fisheries sector in Bangladesh contributes significantly to the gross domestic product (around 4 percent of GDP and 22 percent of agricultural GDP) and creates jobs for marginal people accounting for nearly 7 percent of global fish production. continental. About 1.4 million full-time people and 12 million marginal part-time people are employed in this sector. Several studies show that sea fishing currently accounts for around 20 percent of total fish production in Bangladesh, and the remainder includes inland and farm fisheries. We consider the discussion on fisheries subsidies to be important for Bangladesh.
Another very important aspect is the submission of LDCs for a smooth transition in favor of the outgoing members of the LDC category, released on October 17, 2021 at the request of the delegation of Chad on behalf of the LDC group. Since the creation of the LDC category in 1971, only six countries have successfully graduated from the category. However, in recent years, the trend has accelerated.
Today, 16 countries officially meet the reclassification criterion, including four that are expected to leave the LDC group: Angola, Bhutan, Sao Tome and Principe and the Solmon Islands by 2024, these are small sparsely populated island countries. Five more, including Bangladesh, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Nepal and Tuvalu, have been recommended for reclassification by the Development Policy Committee (CDP) and approved by ECOSOC by 2026. The reclassification of Myanmar and the Timor-Leste has been postponed. Cambodia, Comoros, Djibouti, Senegal and Zambia graduated for the first time. Ten more countries have already met a graduation criterion during the 2021 triennial review. This means that the graduation path of 26 LDC countries is on its way, 19 of which are members of the WTO. Only nine LDCs will wait for the next phase of reclassification among WTO members. It is assumed that the number of LDC graduates will increase in the future. Thus, the participation of LDCs in the WTO must be more meaningful and more effective.
In December 2020, the LDC group released a draft ministerial decision. The topic focused on the challenges of LDC trade and the way forward. The text proposed a formal smooth transition to the WTO, extending all support measures in favor of LDCs for a period of twelve years after their graduation. The communication called for the phasing out of their preferential market access regime after graduation. It has received support from a wide range of WTO members. However, in the WTO process, a final consensus on such a package in a limited time is not possible. Given the crucial importance of the subject and to reach a concrete decision at MC12, the group of LDC graduates is proposing a provisional arrangement in the hope of gradually phasing out their preferential market access advantage over a period of six years. at nine years old. In this perspective, a draft decision proposes to instruct the LDC sub-committee to prepare a package of accompanying measures in favor of LDCs after their graduation and to report to the General Council at its first meeting in 2023. This means, in principle, it has been agreed that any support program will apply unconditionally and equally to all graduated LDCs. This could gain new momentum at the UN LDC-V conference scheduled for January 2022. The decision on the agreement will certainly have a great contribution for LDC graduates given the difficult situation they have faced.
Another important submission from developing countries is the negotiation on patient waiver of Covid products. The submission attempted to establish the fact that there shouldn’t be any Covid monopolies, the TRIPS waiver should be there. India and South Africa proposed lifting IPR barriers and ensuring greater equity in access to all vaccines. This is an important issue that could serve the interests of less developed nations in vaccinating their populations.
Vaccination policy is the key to a sustainable economic recovery in trade. The WTO CEO at the Covid-19 world summit on September 22 said that a sustainable economic and trade recovery can only be achieved with a policy ensuring rapid global access to vaccines. In her speech, she said that it is not acceptable for 58% of the population in developed countries to be fully vaccinated, while in low-income countries barely 1.0% of people are vaccinated. It was also mentioned that most rich countries and some emerging markets have rebounded strongly, but other countries are being left behind. According to the IMF, advanced economies will experience growth of 5.6% this year, compared to just 3.9% for low-income developing countries.
In order to combat the impact of Covid, in particular to address the situation in poor countries, it is imperative to lift export restrictions and address shortages of raw materials. The transfer of know-how and technology as well as the factors influencing decisions on the licensing of intellectual property are also of crucial importance.
In order to keep the supply chain open and predictable, there are waiver provisions in the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights, relating to vaccines and other products. These provisions are necessary to deal with the impact of the Covid. Bangladesh can join the discussion. With a strong pharmaceutical sector, it can use the capacities available in the country.
Another much discussed program in favor of developed countries is the moratorium on electronic transmission. India and South Africa circulated a communication to the WTO General Council arguing that the WTO moratorium on electronic processing can have catastrophic effects in developing countries. According to a UNCTAD estimate in 2017, the potential loss of tariff revenue for developing countries due to the moratorium was $ 10 billion. There is also a debate as to whether the moratorium would be applicable to goods and services transmitted electronically or only applicable to transmission.
Literally, electronic transmission refers to any form of communication not directly involving the physical transmission of paper which creates a record which can be retained, retrieved and examined by a recipient thereof and which can be directly reproduced in paper form by a such recipient through an automated process. While the scope of the moratorium includes both digitized and digitizable goods, an identified list includes a wide range of goods such as film goods, brochures, cards, newspapers, magazines and periodicals, postcards, personal greetings. and announcements. Also in the list, there might be video programs, computer software, music discs, tapes and other sound recorders or the like, etc. time of the fourth industrial revolution.
There are reform proposals, plurilateral agreements and proposals on MSME issues. A package has been developed to help small businesses around the world. Some of them are: inclusion of information on MSMEs in the WTO Trade Policy Review, Global Trade Helpdesk for MSMEs, Trade Facilitation for MSMEs, Consultation with MSMEs before further trade facilitation, access to the integrated database for financing and cross-border payments.
All of this is essential for MSMEs in Bangladesh. We must contribute cautiously to the negotiation. Strong public-private collaboration is essential to achieve results for trade and business in the country.
Ferdaus Ara Begum, CEO of BUILD, a public-private dialogue platform, works for private sector development.