WTO and Trade Issues

Dhaka, 17 Feb 2018: In a national seminar on “LDC Graduation and Sustainable Development Approach
Bangladesh Perspective” held at CIRDAP auditorium Dhaka, civil societies recommended government to take preparation sustainable graduating from LDCs (Least Development Countries). They also urged to adopt appropriate measures in tackling the current inequality in this regard.

The seminar is organized by EquityBD and LDC Watch jointly and participated by, Rd. Quiz Khaliquzzaman Ahmed, Chairman PKSF as the Chair of the seminar, Dr. Shamsul Alam, Senior Secretary of GED and member of planning commission as special guest, Md. Anwar Hossain, Additional Secretary of ERD and Md. Hafizur Rahman, Deputy Secretary and Director of WTO Cell were in the panel of speakers. Mr. Gauri Pradhan of Nepal, the International Coordinator of LDC Watch was also present in the seminar. Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, the Chief Moderator of EquityBD has moderated the seminar while Syed Aminul Hoque presented the keynote paper.

In the keynote paper presented by the Deputy Director of COAST Trust, Syed Aminul Hoque raised the official recommendations of EquityBD and LDC Watch for Bangladesh including (1) Increase domestic resource mobilization through stopping of tax dodging and illicit financial outflow that would support the government to increase her own investment capacity. (2) Expedite pro-poor budgetary allocation for health and education to develop skilled human asset to face the challenges of LDC graduation. (3) Focus climate resilient critical infrastructure to save coastal people and asset. (4) Effective governance to improve development effectiveness.

In his speech Dr. Quazi Khaliquzzaman Ahmed said, the most important issue of this graduation is the dignity of our nation. We deserve this status and it is not anyone’s kindness for us. We have achieved this based on our hard work and performance. We might lose some facilities and advantages that LDCs enjoy in the world’s economic activities. But, we need to look ahead as we can do better by ourselves. Dr. Shamsul Alam, the Senior Secretary of Bangladesh Government said, Quality Education could be the key focus to face the upcoming challenge for Bangladesh while graduating the LDC status as the current way of Education is not meeting the need of Development challenges. We really are not looking for ODA anymore as an LDC when Bangladesh is expecting to be an investing country after this graduation.

Md. Hafizur Rahman, Director of the WTO cell under the Ministry of Commerce said, as a LDC we are not fully enjoying the Special and Differential Preference neither from the Developed Countries like USA, Russia etc. nor from some Developing Countries like India and China. We are looking forward to the greater opportunities as a middle income country.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, the Chief Moderator of EquityBD said, biggest challenge toward the sustainability in LDC graduation are climate disaster and inequalities, we need to develop climate resilient infrastructure.
Mr. Anwar Hossain, Additional Secretary of External Resource Division of Bangladesh Government said, while we will be graduating we might loss some LDC facilities but there are opportunities for us too, we have to develop our competitiveness through quality education.
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NGO participants from Bangladesh were thankful to the Govt Delegation for not signing in the e-commerce rules though there was big push from the proponents. A group of 70 countries, chaired by Australia, Japan and Singapore, agreed today to start exploratory work toward future negotiations on electronic commerce rules.

The experts said that, E-commerce talks in the WTO have repeatedly stalled and the Buenos Aires conference did not deliver a breakthrough on this issue either. Members even failed to extend a nearly two-decade-old agreement barring the implementation of customs duties on electronic transmissions.

The World Trade Organization’s 11th ministerial is expected to close without the issuance of a ministerial declaration after the U.S. and India clash over language on development i.e. whether to include a reference to the Doha Development Agenda.

The 11th Ministerial of WTO starts with a criticism that, over 60 civil society delegates to the conference, who had been accredited by the WTO, were banned from participation by the Argentinian government. Two of them were deported after arriving at the airport. NGO participants in their joint statement mention that in view of the important public policy issues that are being discussed at such international conferences, the citizens of the world need ways to ensure that their problems and concerns are appropriately listened to and taken into consideration.

Our World Is Not For Sale Network, who brings together 250 organizations from 50 countries in the global North and South, called on government delegates to change existing WTO rules that are constraining policy space for job creation and development and to reject the wrong agenda to expand the failed model of the WTO to new issues.
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Dhaka, 30 November 2017. Today CSO (Civil Society Organizations) representatives and right based activist has demanded for Domestic Protection Policy for SME (Small & Medium Enterprises) before introducing E-Commerce in Bangladesh. They made this demand in national seminar title “E-Commerce & Domestic Protection: Issue of WTO Ministerial Conference 2017” that held at National Press Club, Dhaka. They also demand to declare government position on E-Commerce issue in upcoming WTO ministerial conference.
The seminar is moderated by Aminul Hoque of EquityBD and key note presented by Barkatullah Maruf form same organization. Mr. Abu Naser, Director-FBCCI, Md. Fazlul Karim, Director-DCCI, Mr. Asjadul Kibria, Member-Bangladesh Economic Association, Dr. Mesbahuddin Ahamed-Jatyo Sramik Jote, Mr. Abul Hossen, Convenor-Labour Movement Forum, Salauddin Bablu, Chief Reporter- SA TV and Mr. Badrul Alam, Bangladesh Krishak Forum spoke in the seminar.
In the key note presentation, Mr. Maruf said that the proposal and intention developed countries on e-commerce issue is to transform the mandate of discussion of 1998 non-binding rules into mandate of bilateral negotiation and legally binding options. The proponents of the proposal are 5 giant data companies Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft of USA, Japan Canada, EU an few developing countries. African union and LDC are strongly opposing the proposal as it ruins the right of the consumers throughout the world along with the security of personal data. So Bangladesh govt. must take position for our own safeguard and also need to prepare to save small business entrepreneurs and save people.
Asjadul Kibria said that WTO didn’t able to set-a side the Doha Round discussion on especially Trade & Investment, Rules of Origin and Meaningful trade facilities those are very important for LDCs (Least Developed Countries) and need to decide. Than come to the e-commerce and in that case, Bangladesh has needed strong preparation indeed in WTO to face the imbalance situation further.
Dr. Mesbah uddin said that Ecommerce has been running based on disruptive technologies and rapidly evolving in developing countries like Bangladesh due to lack of competitiveness and market failure, but governments don’t have any effective mechanism or institution in regulating this sector for preventing market failures and protecting the consumer. Private car service “Uber” is one of the examples at present who might be a cause of local unemployment and become headache for government in future.
Mr. Abu Naser said that growing inequality is one of the major concern in Bangladesh which exacerbate in WTO deal through E-Commerce. We expect, government will think it very cautiously and discuss with us along with other stakeholder to prepare for upcoming ministerial conference.
Md. Fazlul Karim said that E-commerce is a premature action and initiatives for Bangladesh where governments will not be able to control unfair trade practices, such as predatory pricing, tax dodging. Thus domestic enterprises will lose their opportunity and capacities in competition. So govt. should not go with E-Commerce until development of adequate legal structure for domestic protection regarding digital trade, Internet governance and cyber-security.
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IMG_1617_Index15 June 2017. Today in a human chain, 30 right based CSOs have called to government to develop appropriate national protection policy for saving state’s asset and valuable information before any contracting or agreement with profiteering E-Commerce Giant like Alibaba (China) and Amazon.com (US Company). They have also criticize and protested on current initiatives of government Postal & Telecom Division with Alibaba and Amazon.com on so-called e-commencing and concerned that this contracting without any protection policy would be wider of information out flow and resource repatriate rather making profit. They urged govt. to cancel the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) immediately and develop policy for greater interest of state. Regarding the issue of E-Commerce, they have put forward some specific demands are; i. Any bi-lateral agreement or contract related to e-commerce by govt. or state departments will have to make the public, ii. Government must consider the people’s rights and national security issues especially human & information security before going to agreement with e-commerce activities and iii. Govt. will initiate CSO discourse on this issue through participation of expert, academician, media and mass people to build national consensus and developing appropriate protection policies.
The human chain titled “Civil Society called to Develop National Protection Policy before any Contracting with Amazon and Alibaba” is leaded by EquityBD and moderated by Mustafa Kamal Akanda of EquityBD, where spoke by many other representatives among more than 30 participated civil society organization and individuals.
Among the speakers, Syed Aminul Hoque of EquityBD said that Bangladesh is very premature country and we have less, in fact no capacity to face long term negative impact of such e-commerce or online business. Such context, MNCs (Multinational Companies) will get chance to establish their monopolistic business that ultimately looser our country’s economy through tax evasion, resource repatriation and our people & consumers. He urged government to understand the e-commerce issues taking time and develop appropriate protection policies.
Abdul Kader Hajari (Executive Director-Arapn) said that e-commerce is not our issue, this is rich countries like USA, EU and Chinese issue because they have developed hi-tech business. Our issue is sustainable development and reducing poverty. So that we need to create industrialization, create employment but so called e-commerce process will hinder these development issues and increase poverty indeed. Our government should avoid and go with very carefully but that not happen at present.
Nurul Amin (Secretary Jatio Sramik Jote) said that government is facing huge challenges to crate employment whereas e-commerce will facilitate the reverse. Introducing e-commerce will contribute of losing existing job and create new unemployment. We already observe threat for our small scale mass-transport system (e.g. auto rickshaw, CNG etc.) due to giving approval for “Uber” (An online global transport company) to do business in Dhaka and other cities. He demand to review the agreement with Uber. Mr. Subal Sraka of Landless Somiti opined to strengthen govt. institutional capacity to introduce e-commerce by own initiative rather invite foreign profiteering companies that may benefit us.
Moderator said that Bangladesh has a vision to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 that would be impossible if e-commerce facilitates through profiteering MNCs. He opined and call government to save peoples’ rights through saving information and people’s asset.
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IndexTwelve Farmers’ Organizations term the WTO treaty on agri-subsidies withdrawal suicidal for Bangladesh,
Demanded special measures in the 2016-17 budget to ensure sustainable food security.
Today 12 farmers’ organizations have termed the recent WTO treaty on subsidy withdrawal from agriculture as suicidal for the food security of Bangladesh. They were speaking from a human chain and rally held today in front of the national press club. They said, the 10th Ministerial Conference of World Trade Organization (WTO) has decided to bring an end to agriculture subsidies. Developing countries will remove subsidies within 2023, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and net food-importing countries will do that within 2030. It means countries like Bangladesh has to stop all its supports towards agriculture. It will lead Bangladesh may be to remove almost a full ministry called Ministry of Agriculture that is providing various extension supports to the agriculture sector.
The human chain titled ‘Is govt prepared for post subsidy era, saving small farmers, and to gain sustained self sufficiency’ was jointly organized by Bangladesh Krishak Federation, Bangladesh Bhumihin Samity, Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation, Labour Resource Center, Kendrio Krishok Moitri, Bangladesh Kishani Shova, Bangladesh Krishak Federation (JI) , Bangladesh Adibasi Somity, Bangaldesh Fish Workers’ Alliacne, Haor farmers and fishers alliance, National Women farmers and workers Association and COAST. Mustafa Kamal Akand of COAST Trust moderated the human chain. Among others Badrul Alam of Bangaldesh Krishak Federtaion, Subal Sarker of Bangladesh Bhumihin Somity, Jayed Iqbal Khan of Bangladesh Krishak Federation, Anupom Mahmud of Haor farmers and Fishers Alliance and Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of COAST Trust also spoke at the occasion.
On behalf of the organizers Md. Mujibul haque Munir of COAST Trust placed specific recommendations from the human chain, these are: (i) implementation of strong laws controlling commercialization of agricultural lands to save small farmers land and to refrain marginalized farmers from selling their lands, (ii) introduction of cooperative farming to save the small scale farmers, govt. incentives must be there to save the small scale farmers (iii) Establishment of sustainable embankments in coastal areas must get priorities to save the coastal farmers from river erosion, flash flood and sea level rising (iv) implementation of strong and effective market mechanism so that farmers access and control over the marker established, (v) enhanced capacities of public sector in seeds productions and distribution, more allocation for BADC must be ensured, (vi) We demand extension of sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural technologies.
Rezaul Karim said, in one hand it is said that country has become food surplus country and we are exporting food and food import is also going, what is the reality then? Agriculture of Bangladesh can’t be treated same as the developed countries. Developed countries have been able to enhance capacities of their farmers with huge subsidies and technical support. They have become industrial now. So, withdrawal of subsidy in developed countries and in Bangladesh can’t have same impact. Subal Sarkar said, USA provides BDT 3 lakh to farmers per day, it provides 400 million dollar per day as agri subsidy, in Europe one farmer gets 6 dollar per day while in Bangladesh one farming family gets only 90 dollar per year! Hence, we are continuously forced to withdraw subsidies. This is just to create their agri products market to our market and to make our agriculture sector dependent to their companies. Badrul Alam said, we can remember that in 2008 we could not manage food even having money with us. They way the agriculture is becoming controlled by some multinational companies; in near future food stocks will be controlled by the monopoly of some companies. We will have to be very careful about. We will have to take measures right now to cope with the emerging situation. Anupom Mahmdud said, our food security has to be secured by us, and that is why we will determine our agriculture policy.

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Title of the article is:  Government must be prepared for the post subsidy era

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On February 4, New Zealand will host the historic signing of the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) amidst widespread people’s protests against the deal. Careful analysis of the text revealed that the TPP will violate a number of fundamental human rights and would negatively impact people’s access to quality and affordable health care, further endanger the environment, and violate national sovereignty. That is why EquityBD endorses a call of CSOs across the world to urge the respective governments not to sign the deal.

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IMG_8330Dhaka, 08 December 2015. Today thirty civil society rights group including farmers and labour organizations have urged government to position to implement the “Bali ministerial package 2013” through Doha Development Agenda to achieve common global goal through WTO negotiation. They also criticize present biased & unfair role of WTO and demanded Duty Free & Quota Free Market access for LDCs to enhance their trade and export in global market. They placed these demand in a seminar at national press club Dhaka titled “Stop Corporate globalization. WTO 10th ministerial conference: Expectation of LDCs”. The seminar has organized in associate with thirty civil society organization led by EquityBD.
Syed Aminul Hoque has moderated the seminar and Md. Mujibul Haque Munir of COAST Trust presented the key note paper. Md. Tazul Islam Chowdhury, MP and Chairman of Ministry of Commerce Parliament Standing committee were present as the Chief Guest. Among others Monowar Mostafa of Development Synergy Institute, Asjadul Kibria of Bangladesh Economic Association, Dr. Mesbauddin Ahamed of Jatio Sromik Joot, Abul hossion of Hawkers Federation, Aminur rasul Babul of Unnayan Dhara Trust, Monjur Ahmed of FBCCI also spoke at the occasion.
Mujibul Hoque Munir said, WTO is playing duel role and biased to the developed country. Some rich countries especially US and their allies are trying to set aside permanently the entire development mandate of the Doha Round, and Common Package of “Bali Agreement” adopted in 2013 WTO conference. The “Bali Package” generally agreed to ensure duty free & quota free market access for LDCs to increase their trade, but unfortunately, WTO has backtracked from this agenda. A balance trade rules is very important to reduce poverty of LDCs and to achieve Sustainable Development Goals adopted by UN. It’s only possible to overhauling the WTO present rules to make the global trading system more compatible with people-centred development.
Aszadul Kibria said, that global trade policy facilitating by WTO, must be evaluated by whether it contributes to global goals such as food security and food sovereignty, sustainable development and financial stability to create employment and reduction of poverty & inequality in LDCs. WTO does not looking this matter, instead playing vested role to serve the developed countries and their corporate interest. Monowar Mustofa said, free movement of labour must be an agenda of the conference. Dr. Mesbauddin Ahamed said, USA never gives us duty free market access for our garments in past and even suspended their GSP facilities just hindering our development trend and effort, that clear violating the WTO rules. Our government should protest in upcoming negotiation and demand compensation accordingly.
Aminur Rasul Babul said, WTO has been creating block for developing and LDCs to provide necessary subsidies in their agriculture, on the other hand no talk about subsidies giving by the rich countries. E.g. around US$ 280 billon are subsidised every year in EU agriculture especially for their dairy sector. So we should follow no binding rule following the EU and subsidies our agriculture and own policy for food stocking process until food security achieved.
Monjur Ahmed said, to get benefit from the WTO negotiations we will have to be technically smart. Doha Development Agenda must be agreed first.

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Dhaka, 4th November 2015. In a recent high level meeting on 29th October between US Ambassador Michel Punke and representative of the LDC group, Ambassador Shammem Ahsan and Ambassador Christoper from Uganda, it was agreed that there will be 17 years i.e., up to January 2033 of pharmaceutical patent exemptions. It is expected that the decision will be formally adopted in the Council of the Trade – related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) meeting to be held on 6th November at WTO. The waivers will also have to endorse by WTO Ministerial Conference to be held at the end of this year at Nairobi. News gathered from trade diplomats in Geneva.
EquityBD Chief Moderator Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said that this is another one milestone achievement for Bangladesh leadership for LDCs and track 2 diplomacy i.e. civil societies’ continuous support and mobilization for LDCs demand in last few years.
The patent waiver supposes to be end during January 2016. On behalf of LDCs, Bangladesh has given the application some time ago in this regard, LDC demand was to get this patent waiver until LDCs are graduated as developed country. Such logic or reasons has came out of history where developed countries like Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States has not given patent rights to other countries until their own country companies have had not developed. There was also a reasons is that such a patents rights will also have impact on essential medicine price in developing countries, where poverty and health problems are rampant. It is the US who has opposed the patent waiver until the graduation and US was pleading to give it for 10 years only.
Such an LDC demand was unconditionally supported by developing countries, EU and various UN bodies and civil societies across the world. In Bangladesh around 30 right based civil society organizations, including several labor, farmers and trade unions bodies, leaded by EquityBD have had a press conference on 10th October and a seminar on 2013, and wrote letters to US trade ambassadors and in favor of LDCs demand.

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Index_7570Dhaka, today, October 10, 2015. Today, 30 rights based organizations which includes right based civil societies, trade unions, farmers, leaded by EquityBD has demanded TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) or Intellectual Property Rights waiver for Bangladesh as well as other LDCs (Least Developed Countries) until become a developed country. They also demanded extension of TRIPS waiver period on pharmaceutical industries of Bangladesh for next 10 years at least up to 2025. They made this demand in a press conference titled “Bangladesh and all LDCs deserve TRIPS waiver until become a developed country” held at national press club. Please note that EquityBD is the member of LDC Watch, OWINFS (Our World is Not for Sale) and TWN (Third World Network) the global civil society group who are mobilizing civil societies in this regard.
The group has also announced in the press conference, that they will send a letter and memorandum to the chair of WTO, US and Canada Trade representatives, WTO Secretary General and related other official delegation and representatives, following the upcoming TRIPS council meeting in Geneva, will be held on 15-16 Oct’2015.
Syed Aminul Hoque read out a paper in favor of the group regarding above demands and said that the TRIPs agreement will be end by 2016 especially on pharmaceutical products; but Bangladesh is not in a position at present to compete with global players in pharmaceutical market after 2016 despite a progress made. They argued that, Bangladesh is yet an import oriented country of API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) for our pharmaceutical industries. This scenario does not representing the self-sufficient capacity in view of technology & knowledge-based to fit the industries as global standard. So withdrawal of such waiver and patent to be granted in pharmaceuticals that would be a cause of higher price, narrow market demand both in country and exporting field and will denied the access of our poor people in the necessary health services. That’s why Bangladesh and LDCs deserve TRIPS waiver for her Pharmaceutical industries at least next 10 years up to 2025.
Md. Badrul Alam from Farmers Federation and in favor the group has criticize and condemned the present representatives of USA and Canada for their negative role in the TRIPS meeting for not announcing its full support to the WTO-LDC group’s requests in relation to the pharmaceutical transition period and may instead be making unlawful demands that create obstacles to access in the global market especially for Bangladesh and even other LDCs. Following the situation, they urged to the developed countries representatives especially USA & Canada delegation to pay their positive role and support to facilitate the TRIPs waiver extension proposal in favor of Bangladesh as well as other LDCs.
Sharifuzzaman from Nagorik Shanghati said that, there has a scope of TRIPs waiver extension for LDCs because, On June 11, 2013, WTO has announced that LDCs will be getting an extension for TRIPS until 2021. The waiver came as “Extension of the transition period under Article 66.1 for LDC members”. This has given the LDC’s as leverage for more years to implement international intellectual property protection rules. So Bangladesh as LDC could get this opportunity indeed until it graduation as developed country according to the WTO commitment.

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Index_605Speakers at a seminar in Katmandu, Nepal on Monday proposed that the least development countries (LDC) along with the developing countries should have been able to exercise their right to ensure food security for their poor people. Though WTO (World Trade Organization) thinks that this food security agenda will distorts the global trade.
The WTO’s decision of 1995 about giving 10% subsidy for the people should not be enforced at present considering inflation and price hike in essentials. They said the decision should be rationalized in keeping with the present scenario.
The seminar titled “The world Trade Organization, Agriculture and the right to food,” held at the hall room of Administrative Staff College in Lalitpur district adjacent to Katmandu in Nepal is organized by Seven civil service organizations including Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh (EquityBD), South Solidarity Initiative-Action Aid, India, Third World Network (TWN) of India and LDC Watch of Nepal as a part of the 3-day People’s SAARC regional Convergence. The People’s SAARC Regional Convergence, a south Asian mega event of civil society, took place in Nepal from 22 to 24th November as the parallel event of the official SAARC Summit on behalf of the people of South Asia.
Benny Kuruvilla of South Solidarity Initiative-Action Aid of India moderated the seminar while among others Badrul Alam of Bangladesh Krishak Federation, Mostafa Kamal Akanda of Equity and Justice Working Group, Ranja Sengupta of Third World Network and Prerna Bomzan of LDC Watch Nepal spoke.
Addressing the seminar, Badrul Alam said WTO is worse than World Bank and IMF. It has own teeth to bite meaning it has the legal rights to punish its member states if fail to comply with the decision. He added, it is an undemocratic and illegitimate institution and is promoting the neo-liberal economic agenda in favour of the multinational companies.
Mustafa Kamal Akanda of EquityBD said, there was popular demand to allocate more in agriculture in the current national budget of Bangladesh but the government was forced by IMF and World Bank not to increase it. And this is how Bangladesh government was bound to switch the allocation for agricultural subsidy to social safety net.
Ranja Sengupta of India said WTO is ignoring genuine food security and the present livelihood concern and pushing aggressive trade liberalization, which is destroying the livelihood of farmers as well as the environment in the South Asia.
Prerna Bomzan said in her speech since development was at the centre of Doha Round, the LDC issues must be prioritized. The Bali LDC package must be implemented immediately because it is still non-binding in nature.

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