Bangladesh should focus on export preferences in the European Union market following its graduation from the least-developed country (LDC) status, discussants at a webinar said.
As the country would not be able to increase its competitiveness immediately, they said, it should concentrate on negotiations to continue with the existing preferences for some more time after its graduation.
As an LDC, Bangladesh currently enjoys duty-free access to the EU under the 'Everything but Arms (EBA)' initiative, with around 61 per cent of its yearly exports destined for the region.
The speakers also emphasised establishing more fashion-design institutes, raising competitiveness by increasing productivity and reducing cost of production, improving business climate and trade facilitation system, upgrading hard and soft business infrastructure, encouraging linkage industries and establishment of special economic zones and active pharmaceutical ingredient park for smooth transition of Bangladesh from LDC status by 2026.
They said permanent graduation from the LDC status would amount to recognition of the real development of the country and the living standards of people, although Bangladesh would face multiple challenges.
The observations and recommendations were made during the webinar styled 'LDC Graduation: Challenges and Opportunities' hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB).
Speaking as the chief guest, planning minister MA Mannan said the country's graduation from the LDC status remains to be a beautiful journey.
"Bangladesh should have been here long before, we are late," he mentioned.
Speaking as a panellist, Apex Footwear Limited managing director Syed Nasim Manzur said what is critically important is that the EU is the single largest destination of Bangladesh exports.
"Hence, maintaining preferences in the EU market should be the number-one priority," he suggests.
Sharifa Khan, member (secretary), industry and energy division under Planning Commission, says the government is serious about free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries as part of post-graduation measures.
"But we have to be very cautious about FTA. We conducted studies and found FTA is not an answer to all questions."
ICAB president Mahmudul Hasan Khusru said both public and private sectors should brace for the post-LDC graduation challenges.
The government is developing 100 special economic zones and more than two dozen hi-tech parks to meet the demand of investors.
"The Bangladesh Investment Development Authority comes forward to providing one-stop service to investors," Mr Khusru said, adding the country should opt for bilateral free trade deals to gain export momentum.
ICAB past president Md Humayun Kabir presided over the webinar as the session chairman.
ICAB CEO Shubhashish Bose, also a former senior secretary of the government, presented a keynote paper.
Mostafa Abid Khan, member, Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission, BSRM chairman Ali Hussain Akber Ali and FBCCI adviser Monzur Ahmed were panel speakers of the virtual programme.
In his keynote, Mr Bose suggested getting GSP+ facility from the EU to face the post-LDC challenges and to minimise negative impacts on trade.
He also recommended enhancing market access of the country's products and services through FTA/RTAs with potential trading partners, and diversifying products and markets.
Mr Bose suggested exploring untapped potential where structural constraints, either at production level or in the area of management of compliance, are required.