Experts in a dialogue on Saturday urged for comprehensive export and investment trade policy reforms to boost export competitiveness in post COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation.
They said this in the 5th dialogue of Resurgent Bangladesh on "International Trade in Covid Times: Impact and Way forward for Bangladesh" held yesterday. Resurgent Bangladesh, an economic recovery initiative put together by MCCI, DCCI, Chittagong Stock Exchange Ltd., BUILD, and Policy Exchange held this dialogue, said a press release, reports BSS.
Speaking at the dialogue as the chief guest, Tofail Ahmed, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Commerce said that some 8256 products got duty free access in the Chinese market which is expected to fetch $2.5 billion more export earnings. He said export target was hit hard by Covid-19 pandemic.
Mentioning that the present poverty level increased due to Covid-19, Tofail, also the former Commerce Minister said, "With the help of vibrant private sector, the country will be able to recover the condition soon. "In the last budget we projected 8.2 percent GDP growth. We gave cash incentives to IT sector and other services sector as well."
Abul Kasem Khan, Chairperson, BUILD in his welcome remarks said the worldwide impact of Covid-19 is severe. He said due to Covid situation, the window of opportunity will be opened for Bangladesh. He said, adding, "But, we need to be competitive in terms of trade especially in the ease of doing business index. If we fail to be competitive, the window of opportunity will not be open for a long time for us," He also emphasized on strengthening the backward linkage industries as well as urged the government for establishing a global bonded warehouse system. He said considering covid crisis, Bangladesh needs to reform its export, import, industrial, foreign exchange, investment, taxation, FDI policies. Shams Mahmud, President of DCCI presented the keynote paper.
He suggested to negotiate with export destinations to avoid restrictions on export goods as well as port infrastructure like container terminals while Bay terminal needs to be expedited. Shams said Stimulus packages needs to be increased and disbursed with flexible terms and conditions. To do better in international trade, he suggested to expedite economic diplomacy, focus on FTA, PTA, TICFA's implementation.
The DCCI President also urged the government to accelerate the procedure of getting the observer status of ASEAN. Prof. Dr. Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow of CPD said after LDC graduation Bangladesh will have to export its products giving 12 percent duty whereas Vietnam will enjoy zero tariff. "We need to turn comparative advantage into competitive advantage," he said urging for coordination between industrial strategy and trade strategy.
Emphasizing on export diversification, he stressed on grabbing regional market, effective implementation of BBIN and one belt, one road initiative. "We need to transform multimodal transport corridor into an economic corridor. Bangladesh should focus on bilateral FTA but in the form of economic partnership agreement." he said.
Regarding Bangladesh's LDC graduation, he said the government may think the issue seriously. He said the government may think of deferring the graduation or seeking international support measures for 3-4 years after the graduation. Syed Nasim Manzur, Managing Director of Apex Footwear Ltd. said that in Bangladesh the services sector contributes 52 percent of the economy.
"So, we cannot ignore this sector," he said underscoring the importance of reducing export time and cost of doing business for competitiveness. Underscoring the need for export credit guaranty, he suggested for establishing "Free Trade Warehousing Zone". Dr M Masrur Reaz, Chairman of Policy Exchange said that first of all there is a need to identify the risk factors. "Bangladesh has to exploit global demand in a post-covid time. To attract FDI, comprehensive trade and investment policies will play a key role. Bonded warehouse facility to non-RMG sector will help other sectors to be more competitive in terms of export," he said.
MCCI President Barrister Nihad Kabir said if the honorable Prime Minister along with stakeholders from business community and concerned Ministers sit regularly in every two or three months, it would help to streamline necessary measures and solve all problems faced by the businesses.
Asif Ibrahim, Chairman of CSE underscored the need for diversifying Bangladesh's export destinations. Regarding hard infrastructures, he suggested for completing the projects soon. He said bureaucratic tangles should be removed for faster implementation.
Dr Zaidi Sattar, Chairman of PRI said Bangladesh's growth is export-led and the post-Covid policy formulation or reforms need to be synchronized.
He also said that the RMG success model needs to be replicated in non-RMG sectors as well. "Each year several products are being added to our export basket but we need to incentivize those products to make those sustainable." He added.
NKA Mobin, Senior Vice President, DCCI, Waqar Ahmad Choudhury, Director and Former Senior Vice President, DCCI and former Director, DCCI Barrister Sameer Sattar also spoke on the occasion.
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