Bangladesh still risks losing EU GSP benefits

22 January 2021

Bangladesh is still at risk of losing the European Union's (EU's) generalised system of preferences (GSP) plus as the latter has again warned about its readiness to launch the procedure for withdrawal of preferences in case of the country's failure to produce sufficient results. A news report in a national daily on Thursday said that Bangladesh needs to plug some gaps in the EU's nine-point action plan in order to obtain the GSP Plus status after its graduation from a least developed country in 2024.
However, in case of graduation, the EU will generously allow Bangladesh like other LDCs a three-year grace period meaning up to the year 2027 for preparation due to the ongoing Covid- 19 pandemic across the globe.
So, Bangladesh has to fully address the EU's concern related to improving labour standards, which is a vital for getting duty benefit in the trading bloc after the nation's graduation from the LDC status, said an independent think-tank -- the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Network Matter, a research firm based in Brussels -- at a visual dialogue on Friday.
As reported, one of the major gaps lies in the freedom of association, as factory workers still need the participation of 20 per cent of their colleagues to form a union. However, the threshold has been reduced from 30 per cent through an amendment to the labour law. But the 20 per cent threshold is still high when considering that many factories have thousands of workers.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has also ratified the worst forms of Child Labour Convention (CO 182) in 2018. Through this amendment of labour law, employing children under the age of 12 is a punishable offence. However, eliminating child labour will be difficult due to the socio-economic conditions of Bangladesh, where many children work in order to provide for themselves and their families.
Mentionable that some three fifths of Bangladesh's total exports and two thirds of the total garment export are destined for the EU, where they enjoy duty free access under the EU's Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.
Bangladesh needs to diversify its export basket. We think Bangladesh needs to do some homework for doing business with ease. Bangladesh also needs to respect the human rights and ILO conventions. We will have to retain the EU GSP facilities at any cost.

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