The government has planned to frame a new guideline for preferential and free trade agreements to get prepared for the post-graduation period.
Bangladesh is set to graduate from the least-developed country status by 2024 unless the United Nations defers it considering the pandemic-related disruptions.
The ministry of commerce has of late taken the initiative to prepare a draft guideline titled 'Policy Guidelines for Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA)/Free Trade Agreement (FTA)-2020'.
It has asked the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) to update the existing policy guidelines for FTA-2010 by incorporating changing patterns of global and domestic trade.
In the 2010 guidelines, the FTAs are mainly focused on goods and services.
The new guidelines will have issues such as intellectual property rights, technology and the environment.
Talking to the FE, a senior commerce ministry official said currently the ministry is at the negotiation stage of FTA and PTA with 17 countries.
"We have to be prepared for the situation after the LDC graduation in 2024 by updating guidelines to ensure the interest of the country after graduation from the LDC status," he said.
Bangladesh may lose duty-free export facility in its major export markets three years after the graduation.
The tariff commission would prepare a template for the upcoming PTAs and FTAs, the official said.
Currently, Bangladesh is negotiating with Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka on PTA or FTA to get preferential or duty-free market access. Of the countries, Bangladesh has almost finalised the trade negotiations with Bhutan.
On September 14, the cabinet approved the draft PTA with Bhutan. Currently, Bangladesh doesn't have any bilateral PTA or FTA.
Bhutan would be the first country with which Bangladesh is going to sign the bilateral preferential trade agreement.
Vietnam, Thailand, Morocco, Malaysia, USA, Japan, Canada, Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, South Korea, India, KSA, South Africa, Mexico and Egypt, and three regional blocs Gulf Cooperation Council, Eurasian Economic Commission and MERCOSUR are the other countries or regions under examination for trade negotiations on FTA or PTA.
The commerce ministry official said the government is focusing on FTA or PTA with the major trade partners to continue the duty-free market access after graduation.
Currently, Bangladesh is facing stiff competition in major export markets with the countries having FTAs with them.
To boost export and diversify exports, the government is now emphasising FTAs and PTAs with the potential trade partners.
The official said the global trade pattern has changed in the last one decade and developed countries focus on emerging issues while signing FTAs or PTAs.