Specialists urged the government to provide equal fiscal monetary assistance to all the potential export oriented sectors.
Commerce Secretary Dr Md Jafar Uddin has assured representatives from public and private sector entities of implementing the proposed reform of Business Initiative Leading Development (BUILD) for export diversification and supportive policies for non-RMG sectors.
"Export diversification is one of the priorities of our government for which our government is working actively," said Dr Md Jafar Uddin while co-chairing the 8th meeting of Trade and Investment Working Committee of BUILD on Thursday (December 31, 2020) at the Ministry of Commerce.
Dr Md Jafar Uddin said after Bangladesh graduates from the Least Developed Countries category, a number of duty-free quota-free facilities will be eroded.
"The country will need to proceed for bilateral Foreign Trade Agreement (FTA) with potential partner countries for which we need to have deeper studies, research and understanding to offset revenue loss in order to make the country competitive in export," said Dr Md Jafar Uddin.
He also requested BUILD to send all proposals coming out of the Trade and Investment Working Committee meeting to the commerce ministry.
"They will be actively considered but we need the recommendations with action matrix so that we can coordinate with different ministries accordingly to see a better implementation of our reforms," Dr Md Jafar Uddin added.
Barrister Nihad Kabir, president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and co-chair of the Trade and Investment Working Committee, said the government should come forward to provide equal fiscal monetary assistance to all the potential export oriented sectors like the RMG sector.
Having appreciated BUILD for presenting data driven and research-based policy advocacy papers on two important issues, she underscored the need for private dialogue before formulating policies that matter most to private sector's development.
"To resolve the constraints to avail trade licenses for e-commerce business, Ministry of Commerce may consult with Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives to ensure simplified policies," said she.
She stressed the need to increase the frequency of organising the meeting of Trade and Investment Working Committee. She also emphasised on the implementations of the recommendations through regular meeting.
At the meeting, Ferdaus Ara Begum, CEO of BUILD, presented two key presentations titled "Export Diversification Need – Policy Discrimination of Bonded Ware House Facilities for Non-RMG Sector" and "WTO SPS Agreement and Introducing e-Phytosanitary Certification for Agro and Agro Processing Sector in Bangladesh."
She said out of proposed 13 reforms in the last committee meeting, seven were approved. The major implemented reforms include digital e-commerce cell in the commerce ministry, 100% foreign direct investment in the e-commerce sector, training of entrepreneurs for e-banijjo (e-commerce), and a reform regarding individual Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) by the Ministry of Industries.
In the presentation, she referred to some policy differences for non-RMG sectors, specifically in availing the benefits of Bonded Ware House (BWH) facilities in respect of new entitlement, Utilisation Declaration (UD), coefficient, automatic renewal of BWH, audit, sub-contracting, and sample import.
She suggested simplification of policies that benefit all sectors such as leather and leather goods, plastic, electrical and electronic goods and agro-processing sector.
It was found in a study of International Finance Corporation (IFC) that equal access on non-RMG sectors to only BWH policy could have fetched $4.2-8.4 billion additional export.
In the second policy paper highlighting the requirement of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and the concerned agreement of World Trade Organisation (WTO) and policy options included in the export policy of 2018-2021 for e-Phytosanitary (e-PC) certification, she recommended a fully automated e-PC, online payment, registration of the applicant in such a way so that repeated requirement of submitting the same documents are not required, and establishment of a national plant quarantine authority.
Md Hafizur Rahman, additional secretary of Export Wing, Ministry of Commerce, conducted the discussion session and said export sectors apart from RMG should get the equal treatment in case of export. Covid-19 has made us to changes in policies related to export, he said.
While responding to the proposal to remove differences of policies over UD in RMG and sectors, Md Zakir Hossain, additional commissioner of Customs Bond Commissionerate, said as the requirement of importing raw materials are very diverse, in case of other sectors it becomes quite difficult for them to allow providing UD for those sectors.
Md Abdur Rahim Khan, joint secretary, Export-2, Ministry of Commerce, said the Ministry of Commerce has already taken initiatives to establish Health Certification Agency in Bangladesh to facilitate the export of agro-processing products. He also said Export Promotion Bureau has a guideline in that respect to follow.
In reply to the implementation of e-banijjo platform, Md Hafizur Rahman, director general (additional secretary), WTO Cell, Ministry of Commerce said the Ministry of Commerce initially planned to train 5000 e-commerce entrepreneurs through e-banijjo platform and they have already trained 2500 entrepreneurs. Presently, the Ministry of Commerce has sent a new proposal to Ministry of Planning to upgrade the numbers to 12,000.