Post-LDC Bangladesh: Ensuring Global Economic Cooperation for Transition

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Embarking on the journey from Least Developed Country (LDC) status to a more resilient and prosperous nation marks a pivotal moment for Bangladesh. Guided by criteria set by the United Nations Committee for Development Policy (UN-CDP), including human assets, economic and environmental vulnerability, and income per capita, Bangladesh met these benchmarks in 2018 and 2021, positioning itself for graduation in 2024. However, the unforeseen challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a deferment of the graduation year to 2026. This transition demands meticulous planning, especially considering the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and other technological advancements. Balancing sustained economic growth with technological readiness becomes a dual challenge for Bangladesh, yet its adept foreign policy and steadfast leadership pave the way for robust global partnerships in the post-LDC period.

Post-LDC Bangladesh: Navigating the Path to Global Economic Cooperation

Bangladesh’s impending graduation from the LDC category represents a significant achievement, signifying the nation’s progress in improving the well-being of its citizens. However, the journey does not end with graduation; it is just the beginning of a new chapter. As Bangladesh prepares for this transition, it must focus on technology readiness, policy reform, and infrastructure development to navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

Meeting Graduation Criteria

Bangladesh has made notable progress by meeting all three criteria for LDC graduation: per capita Gross National Income (GNI), Economic and Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI), and Human Assets Index (HAI). The country’s achievements in these areas are evident, with a per capita GNI of $1827 (well above the $1222 threshold), an EVI of 27 (below the requirement of 32 or below), and an HAI of 75.4 (exceeding the requirement of 66 or above). These accomplishments underscore the nation’s commitment to improving the well-being of its citizens.

Implications of Graduation

Graduating from the LDC category is a significant milestone for Bangladesh. However, it comes with a set of challenges, especially related to international support measures (ISMs). As Bangladesh transitions beyond LDC status, it will lose access to certain support measures, which makes the period from 2021 to 2026 crucial for preparing and mitigating potential challenges. Key areas of impact include trade policies, a modernized tax base structure, and the promotion of industrialization and competitiveness.

Technological Readiness

One of the critical challenges facing Bangladesh is its readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The country’s educational institutions, particularly universities, need to update their curriculum to produce skilled labor capable of operating cutting-edge technologies. Technology is a key driver of economic growth in the 21st century, and Bangladesh must bridge this technological gap to secure its position as a high-income country. Reforming policies, regulations, and infrastructure is essential for achieving this goal and ensuring global competitiveness.

Intellectual Property Laws

To access foreign technologies and foster innovation, Bangladesh must strengthen its intellectual property laws. Protecting intellectual property is a fundamental aspect of attracting foreign investment and fostering an environment of innovation. Bangladesh’s transition beyond LDC status is an opportunity to bolster its legal framework to protect intellectual property rights.

Navigating the Post-LDC Landscape: Bangladesh’s Strategic Approach to Global Economic Cooperation in the Transition Era

Bangladesh, on the verge of graduating from its Least Developed Country (LDC) status, is strategically positioning itself to foster international partnerships and harness the power of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). This transformation reflects the nation’s commitment to diversify its economy, increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and enhance its resilience and competitiveness.

Bangladesh’s Diplomatic Triumph: Navigating Global Partnerships with Strategic Foresight

In a remarkable display of strategic acumen, Bangladesh’s foreign policy and leadership have ushered in a new era of economic prosperity. The nation, cognizant of the pivotal role strong bilateral relationships play in fostering growth, has meticulously crafted alliances with both regional neighbors and global economic powerhouses. This visionary approach not only amplifies trade but also fosters cross-border investments, creating an ecosystem conducive to sustained development.

As Bangladesh prepares to graduate from the least-developed country (LDC) status in 2026, its foreign policy architects are orchestrating a detailed action plan for the European Union (EU). This plan not only anticipates potential challenges but also seeks to extend trade preferences under the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) beyond 2029. The proactive stance taken by Bangladesh reflects a diplomatic finesse, ensuring a seamless and sustainable transition.

Japan’s commitment to supporting Bangladesh in enhancing trade performance and diversifying its product portfolio aligns seamlessly with the nation’s ambitious vision of attaining developed status by 2041. This collaboration underscores the effectiveness of Bangladesh’s diplomatic engagements, transcending regional boundaries for mutual economic benefit.

The World Trade Organization’s endorsement of duty-free and quota-free facilities for graduating countries, including Bangladesh, is a testament to the nation’s prowess in international negotiations. This diplomatic success ensures that Bangladesh continues to enjoy special trade benefits post-graduation, solidifying its standing in the global economic arena.

A particularly noteworthy achievement lies in Canada’s extension of duty-free market access until 2034, a result of legislative support from the Canadian parliament. This not only showcases the global recognition of Bangladesh’s economic potential but also affirms the skillful diplomatic maneuvering by its leadership.

In essence, Bangladesh’s foreign policy and leadership have not merely navigated the complexities of global partnerships but have strategically leveraged them for the nation’s advancement. This diplomatic triumph, marked by foresight and efficacy, positions Bangladesh as a formidable player in the international arena, with a trajectory set for sustained economic growth and influence.

Bangladesh’s Strategic Shift: Pursuing PTAs and FTAs for Post-LDC Survival

In preparation for the challenges following its graduation from the least developed country (LDC) category, Bangladesh is strategically diversifying its trade landscape. Beyond ongoing negotiations on global and regional platforms, the nation is now focused on securing free trade agreements (FTAs) with seven major trading partners before 2026. This proactive approach forms a crucial part of Bangladesh’s comprehensive strategy to mitigate immediate shocks and ensure a smooth transition.

While concurrent negotiations with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the European Union aim to extend existing trade benefits beyond the LDC graduation, Bangladesh has set its sights on signing FTAs with key partners. Already having inked a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Bhutan, the nation is expanding its reach further.

With a primary emphasis on retaining market access to major export destinations, Bangladesh is directing its efforts toward FTAs with Canada, Japan, China, India, South Korea, Russia, and Australia. Notably, China and India have expressed keen interest in initiating FTA discussions, prompting joint feasibility studies as a precursor to formal negotiations. The strategic move also considers potential FTAs with Singapore and Malaysia.

As Bangladesh navigates the post-GSP landscape, these bilateral agreements are instrumental in fortifying its position and establishing robust partnerships with key global players. The nation’s proactive engagement in pursuing PTAs and FTAs underscores its commitment to overcoming challenges in the post-LDC scenario, setting the stage for strengthened economic ties in the years to come.

Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)

Bangladesh understands that embracing digital technologies is key to achieving its vision of high-income status by 2041. The adoption of 4IR technologies has the potential to revolutionize the nation’s economy. It attracts more FDI, enhances export capabilities, and improves industrial competitiveness. By leveraging the power of the digital age, Bangladesh aims to remain future-ready, fostering innovation, and economic prosperity.

Diverse Development Assistance

To fuel its growth, Bangladesh seeks diversified development assistance from various international actors. This approach helps fund essential infrastructure projects, bolstering the nation’s economic foundation. By attracting assistance from multiple sources, Bangladesh ensures that it can expedite the development of crucial infrastructure, rectify historical deficiencies, and facilitate future cooperative endeavors.

Emphasis on Sustainable Growth

Bangladesh is committed to sustainable growth, aligning its economic ambitions with global sustainability goals like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By joining hands with both Western and non-Western development actors, Bangladesh builds a solid foundation for advancing the SDG agenda. This collective effort showcases Bangladesh’s dedication to creating a sustainable future with economic growth transcending borders.

Private Sector Contribution

Increasing the contribution of the private sector to the economy is pivotal. Bangladesh recognizes the importance of fostering a conducive environment for businesses to thrive. This shift towards greater private sector involvement not only stimulates economic growth but also generates employment opportunities, driving inclusive development.

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

In its pursuit of a sustainable future, Bangladesh is focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency. These efforts aim to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint and dependence on non-renewable energy sources. By promoting green and clean energy solutions, Bangladesh aligns itself with global environmental objectives, ensuring a more eco-conscious and responsible path to development.

Resilient Rural Development

Bangladesh acknowledges the significance of robust rural development, particularly in the agricultural sector. Empowering rural communities and improving agricultural practices ensures food security, reduces poverty, and enhances the overall quality of life for rural inhabitants. This holistic approach contributes to the nation’s social and economic well-being.

In conclusion, Bangladesh’s journey beyond its Least Developed Country (LDC) status is marked by a strategic and forward-looking approach to global economic cooperation and growth. The nation’s focus on international partnerships, the integration of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies, diversified development assistance, sustainability, private sector engagement, renewable energy, and rural development reflects its comprehensive and proactive stance. By embracing these strategies, Bangladesh is not only preparing for a post-LDC era but also striving for a more inclusive, prosperous, and sustainable future on the global stage. This transition positions Bangladesh to embark on a path towards becoming a high-income country, ensuring a brighter and more resilient future for its people.

– S. M. Saifee Islam is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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