The Director General (DG) of World Trade Organisation (WTO) Pascal Lamy on Saturday in Dhaka said Bangladesh is "well on track" to achieve its development goals and become a middle-income country by 2021.
"The government is 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, held at the university playground.
Mr Pascal Lamy, the fifth DG of the WTO, was the Convocation Speaker. A French political adviser, a businessman and a former European Union (EU)
Commissioner for Trade, Mr Lamy was conferred upon Doctorate of Law degree (Honoris Causa) at the convocation.
The WTO chief said the flexibilities in the WTO system are aiding Bangladesh's growth and development and it is now a model for other least developed countries (LDCs) in terms of using such flexibilities.
But as the country starts to push against the middle income bracket, some of those flexibilities would begin to fall away as the graduation process from the status of an LDC beacons Bangladesh, he said.
He said managing this transition will require investing in the service sector, infrastructure and in trade facilitation programmes and it would require helping Bangladesh businesses to integrate themselves better in the 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 itself 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 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."
"This country needs an internet generation that will twitter blog and network Bangladesh into the global economy," Pascal Lamy said.
"Bangladesh has done particularly well and is well positioned for the future. Three of the five fastest growing markets for LDC exports are regional partners - China, India and Thailand," he said.
"In 1993, only 1 in 500 people had access to a telephone. Not even a generation later, Bangladesh had over 56 million mobile phone subscribers," he said.
The WTO chief further said international trade contributes significantly to growth and development in the LDCs'. Trade accounts for two-thirds of the 7 per cent annual growth that LDCs have recorded over the past decade.
"Yet even though LDC trade grew twice as fast as world trade in the last decade and have doubled their share in global trade, they still account for only 1 per cent of world trade," he added.
He said the ready-made garment sector - mainstay of Bangladesh's economy and the source of more than 75 per cent of total exports and more than three million jobs, particularly for women - accounts for over 10 per cent of GDP.
He said between 1974 and 2004 world trade in textiles was governed by quotas limiting the amount that developing countries could export to developed countries. The phasing out of the Multifibre Arrangement began with the debut of the WTO in 1995 and by 1 January 2005 all quotas on textiles and clothing had been eliminated.
"In many developing countries, including Bangladesh, there was considerable apprehension. Economists here and elsewhere issued dark predictions of doom for Bangladesh and its fledgling garment sector. The reality, I think you will agree, has been somewhat different," he added.
He said that Bangladesh's garment sector has not just survived, it has thrived. Removing the quotas revealed Bangladesh's comparative advantage. Unilateral preferences have also helped Bangladesh's competitive edge. 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.
"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," Mr Lamy mentioned.
He said that progressive trade opening unquestionably helped Bangladesh reduce poverty.
"Few countries anywhere in the world have recorded an 8.5 per cent drop in absolute poverty over a five-year period. Progressive trade opening has unquestionably helped Bangladesh reduce poverty," he said.
"A more open, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules based multilateral trading system can assist WTO Members in realising their potential in an increasingly globalised economy," the WTO DG said.
He said that the WTO consensus driven decision-making gives LDCs a voice and a stake in the multilateral system which neither regional nor bilateral trade schemes can deliver.
These benefits are recognised not just by the WTO, but also by the United Nation's Programmes of Action for LDCs, which under the "Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs" provides a blueprint for international co-operation on integrating LDCs in to the global economy.
He said trade - both imports and exports - LDCs can make a vital contribution to development and to poverty reduction. LDCs also face particular difficulties arising from specific structural and capacity constraints.
"A more open, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules based multilateral trading system can assist WTO Members in realizing their potential in an increasingly globalised economy. For LDCs it is a vital tool. The WTO consensus driven decision-making gives LDCs a voice and a stake in the multilateral system which neither regional nor bilateral trade schemes can deliver," he said.
He said when the WTO opened its doors in 1995 there were 123 governments around the table. The number now rose to 157. More than 97 percent of global trade will be covered by the WTO.
"I encourage Bangladesh to continue its leadership role on trade issues among LDCs. I encourage you, the students of this fine institution, to deliver on the vision of a Golden Bengal through your individual and collective efforts," said Lamy.