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Future trade with EU linked to labour rights

  • Published at 03:57 pm October 21st, 2019

Joint statement of EU-Bangladesh Joint Commission says

Future trade relations of Bangladesh with the European Union is linked to ensuring labour rights, says a joint statement of EU-Bangladesh Joint Commission, calling for developing a roadmap on strengthening labour and human rights in the country.

The statement was issued after the 9th Session of the European Union (EU)-Bangladesh Joint Commission meeting ended at the Planning Commission in the Agargaon area on Monday.

Bangladesh annually gets Tk 20,000 crore (Euro 2.0 billion) tax benefits from exports to EU member countries under EBA (Everything But Arms) privilege extended by Generalized System of Preference (GSP) scheme for least developed countries (LDCs) and other poorer nations.  

The GSP EBA scheme will phase out for Bangladesh in 2027. Meanwhile, Bangladesh is thriving to graduate from LDC to middle income status in 2024. Getting again such facility, called GSP Plus programme of the EU, after graduation will require compliance and ratification of some 27 core international conventions by the government of Bangladesh.    

“In this context, it was recalled that EBA preferences as well as any future trade relationship are conditional on the respect of human rights, including labour rights, as reflected in the international conventions listed in the GSP Regulation,” reads the joint statement.

“Sustained reforms of labour rights standards by the Government of Bangladesh, and their full alignment with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions on the basis of consensus of tripartite constituents is crucial in this regard. While good progress has been made on factory safety in the garment sector, many steps are still outstanding in the area of labour rights and the full implementation of the Sustainability Compact is also necessary,” it adds.

The statement said the EU and Bangladesh agreed to develop a roadmap on some issues strengthening compliance with labour and human rights.

The Joint Commission meeting was co-chaired by Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director of the External Action Service of the European Union and Md Ashadul Islam,  Senior Secretary, Financial Institutions Division, Ministry of Finance.

According to the statement, both the EU and Bangladesh agreed on the aim to strengthen the economic relationship through increased trade and investment flows, for which it was essential to ensure a predictable and transparent business environment for economic operators. 

Bangladesh and the EU concurred that the EU’s unilateral, preferential trade scheme -Everything But Arms (EBA) under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences  – granted to Bangladesh has made a direct and significant contribution to Bangladesh’s economic growth and social and economic development, adds the statement.

Exports from Bangladesh to the EU more than tripled between 2006 and 2018 and the EU is currently the main trading partner of Bangladesh, absorbing half of its overall exports.

The EU in the statement says that Bangladesh is the source of more than 62% of all EBA exports to the EU, and hence the largest beneficiary from the EU EBA program.  Both sides committed to further enhance the regular EU-Bangladesh Business Climate Dialogue to address impediments towards more trade and investment from the EU. 

“The EU stressed that a fully empowered and resilient civil society, in all its diversity, is a crucial component of a democracy. The EU and Bangladesh agreed to develop a roadmap on some issues strengthening compliance with labour and human rights,” says the statement.

Bangladesh and the European Union welcomed that currently the Development Cooperation  of the EU and its Member States with Bangladesh amounts to more than Tk 5,000 crore (€541 mln) per year, says the joint statement.

The Commission meeting held discussions on the key priorities for the post-2020 cooperation agenda, also taking into account the government's incoming 8th five-year plan. 

The Joint Commission agreed on the importance of a regular sectoral policy dialogue to accompany long-term reforms and to reinforce the EU-Bangladesh partnership for development cooperation in particular in the areas of climate change, social protection, human capital and good governance.  

The European Union and the Bangladesh government agreed to continue working jointly towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and within a wider framework, which should include other key international partners and the private sector. Two sides also focused on jointly identifying opportunities for supporting investment, including on key environment and climate change resilient infrastructure.

The meeting also agreed that the good economic progress and the future graduation of Bangladesh from Least Developed Country status should give the opportunity to share the benefit of this progress with the poorer and the most vulnerable part of the population, says the statement.

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