The European Union's representative in Bangladesh has suggested the country should start planning now if it wants to retain its preferential access to the EU market as its economic performance continues to improve.

As a least developed country (LDC), Bangladesh currently enjoys full duty-free and quota-free access to the EU under the 'Everything but Arms' arrangement. But as its economic development continues to improve and its classification rises to that of a developing country, it would graduate to the standard GSP arrangement - which only offers tariff reductions on certain product categories.

However, the "GSP+" option gives full removal of tariffs to countries that ratify and implement international conventions relating to human and labour rights, environment and good governance.

"Let me be clear, Bangladesh won't be eligible for consideration by the EU to get GSP+ until and unless it complies with a combination of stringent conditions," Pierre Mayaudon, the new ambassador and head of EU delegation to Bangladesh said at his maiden press conference in Dhaka yesterday (5 November).

"Bangladesh is enjoying a robust and steady economic growth that could make it a middle-income country by 2021. This would be a fantastic success story, just 50 years after the liberation," the EU envoy noted.

"Considering 2021 is not that far away, necessary work in this regard should start now."

Mayaudon, who served as deputy head of the EU delegation to Pakistan before taking up his new post, stressed the importance of progress on the Sustainability Compact signed last year by the Bangladesh government, the European Union (EU), the US and the International Labor Organization (ILO), along with a trio of labour organisations.

Introduced in July last year, the Sustainability Compact is aimed at improving worker rights and factory safety in Bangladesh's ready-made garment and knitwear industry. But reviews last month suggested that "a lot of work still remains to be done," with a number of outstanding issues still requiring "urgent" attention by the Bangladesh government.

Read more at the following link: Government delays weigh on Bangladesh reforms.