DHAKA, March 29 (BSS)- The Director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO)Pascal Lamy today said Bangladesh is "well on track" to achieve its development goals to become a middle-income country by 2021.
"The government was well on track to meet many of the time- bound targets, including achieving middle income status by 2021," he said in his speech at the 46th convocation of the University of Dhaka as he was conferred a honorary Doctorate of Laws degree (Honors Causa).
The WTO chief said Bangladesh's `Vision 2021' provides a compelling image of how it sees itself going forward.
Pascal Lamy said the flexibilities in the WTO system are aiding Bangladesh's growth and development but as the country starts to push against the middle income bracket, some of those flexibilities would begin to fall away as LDC graduation beacons.
Lamy said managing this transition will require investing in the service sector infrastructure and in trade facilitation programmes and it would require helping Bangladesh business better integrate in global value chain.
"In sum, it is a transformation that will require a great deal of strategic planning. In WTO, you will find a willing and sympathetic partner," the WTO chief said.
He said a vibrant private sector, active civil society and profound social transformation mean Bangladesh is poised to make the next leap to integrate into the global economy.
"The WTO is your partner in achieving your development goal," he said adding that he encouraged Bangladesh to continue its leadership role on trade issues among the Least Development Countries (LDCs) and to deliver on the vision of Golden Bengal though individual and collective efforts.
Noting various successes of Bangladesh related to the global trade Lamy said "Bangladesh leads the way for other LDCs."
He said this development impact has been strikingly captured by last year's household poverty survey, which showed a remarkable drop in rates of absolute poverty.
"Few countries anywhere in the world have recorded an 8.5 per cent drop in absolute poverty over a five-year period," he said adding "Progressive trade opening has unquestionably helped Bangladesh reduce poverty."
Referring to the elimination of all quotas on textile and clothing in January 1, 2005, the WTO chief said economists here and elsewhere issued dark predictions of doom for Bangladesh but the reality has been somewhat different.
"Bangladesh garment sector has not just survived, it has thrived. Simplification of the rules of origin governing duty- free and quota-free access to the EU market in 2010 has led to a surge in Bangladesh's garment exports," he said.
Similar achievements have also been registered in Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry, which has seen its growth consolidated by the flexibilities offered to LDCs under the WTO's intellectual property rules.
He said the decision on TRIPS and Public Health in 2001 to extend the deadline on pharmaceutical patents to 2016 has benefited Bangladesh. "It has helped consolidate the emergence of national pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in Bangladesh," he said.
In this sense, Bangladesh is a model for other LDCs on how to use the flexibilities offered in the multilateral trading system to achieve development outcomes.
The experience of Bangladesh shows that foreign market access for services provided through temporary movements of professionals can have important positive effects in terms of improved availability of scarce foreign currency, improving the current-account balance, financing of higher levels of imports, economic growth, employment generation and poverty reduction.
"The value of remittances to Bangladesh's economy is many times larger than aid or even foreign direct investment," he said.
As the world's most populous LDC, Bangladesh has a natural leadership role to play, he said adding as the coordinator of the LDC Group in 2003, 2007 and again in 2011, Bangladesh has ably advanced the interest of LDCs within the WTO.
Lamy said Bangladesh's ability to translate WTO flexibilities for the world's poorest nations into trade and development outcomes is an example for all LDCs.
"Of course, if Bangladesh is to continue in its leadership role, it needs leaders. This country needs an internet generation that will twitter, blog and network Bangladesh into the global economy," he said.