Bangladesh has to negotiate with EU to qualify for GSP+: German ambassador

Bangladesh will have to negotiate with the European Union to qualify for the GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) plus scheme for getting a privileged tariff facility after LDC graduation, said German Ambassador to Bangladesh Achim Tröster.

"LDC graduation will bring hope as well as challenges for Bangladesh, which the country will be able to overcome," he said during a discussion organised by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association of Bangladesh (DCAB) at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

Asked about continuing the existing tariff facility for Bangladesh after LDC graduation, Tröster said, "The German trade policy is a part of the unified European trade policy. Our trade rules and regulations are drafted by the European Commission, which has the mandate to draft and to adopt them.

"So, this is not a bilateral Bangladesh-German trade relation, but a part of a system of customs and tariff that is valid in the European Union."

He said Bangladesh benefits from the EBA Trade Agreement, according to which everything but arms (EBA) can be imported without any customs and tariffs to the EU as well as to Germany.

The ambassador said after the graduation takes place in 2026, there will be a grace period of three years when Bangladesh can continue to benefit from this zero tariff facility.

"The GSP plus regime is more challenging than the previous one (GSP) because Bangladesh is no longer the least developed country. The country has become more mature and more adult. It also has to take up more responsibility," he said.

The GSP plus scheme is a "special incentive arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance" for "vulnerable developing countries".

This system grants full removal of tariffs on over 66% of EU tariff lines.

To qualify for the scheme, Bangladesh has to ratify 27 international conventions and has to fulfil the "vulnerability" criteria set by the European Union.

To address these concerns, amendments to the existing labour laws, elimination of child labour, registration of trade unions, and elimination of the backlog in cases of labour laws have to be given the most emphasis.

Most of these conventions, which have already been drafted and adopted by a lot of countries, have also been signed by Bangladesh, said the German ambassador.

Nobody has to be perfect from the first day, but the European Commission experts told him that there has to be a visible upward trend in the implementation of all these conventions for Enabling Bangladesh to get the GSP plus facility, said the ambassador.

German envoy dissatisfied over BNP misquoting him

Ambassador Achim Tröster expressed his dissatisfaction over the recent comment of the BNP following his meeting with its Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.

He said he is unhappy that he was quoted as saying he is concerned about the human rights situation and democracy in Bangladesh. "I was unhappy about this because I very much appreciate it if I am asked personally about my own opinions," he said while answering a question.

The German ambassador on 17 March had a two-hour "closed-door" meeting with BNP's Mirza Fakhrul and discussed various issues relating to the next national election, the rule of law and human rights.

After the meeting, BNP standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud briefed reporters, saying the German envoy said his country is concerned about Bangladesh's democracy and human rights.

At the DCAB event, the ambassador said regarding the closed-door meeting, "Yes, we have been talking about the whole range of bilateral relations, the situation of the country of course…I also enjoyed the very fruitful and extensive talk in a friendly atmosphere.

"We make this a subject of our continuous dialogue. We have very fruitful, friendly and extensive talks about this at various nodes of the government [of Bangladesh], but we always do this behind closed doors because no one likes to be criticised by a foreign envoy.

"I am here to represent my country but not to interfere in internal affairs."

He said, "Bangladesh is important to us not only because of the economy but we need Bangladesh as a stable partner."

Regarding democracy, the ambassador said his country wants participatory polls in Bangladesh.

"Germany is in favour of peaceful elections and that every political player takes part in it but refrains from any violence," Tröster said.

The ambassador also talked about their support for Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue and the demand for skilled workers in his country.

DCAB President Rezaul Karim Lotus and its General Secretary AKM Moinuddin also spoke at the talk.