The Heads of Mission of the European Union, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom participated in the 5th plenary of the EU-Bangladesh Business Climate Dialogue on Sunday 28 April 2019 at the Commerce Ministry. They called on the Government to take practical action with a view to improve the ease of doing business in Bangladesh.
Chaired by the Hon’ble Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, MP, and co-chaired jointly by the Secretary Commerce on the GoB side and the European Union Ambassador on the EU side, the Dialogue was attended by senior officials from relevant Government Ministries and Agencies as well as by the Heads of Diplomatic Missions of the EU Member States and representatives of the EU private sector in Bangladesh.
The EU-Bangladesh Business Climate Dialogue was initiated in May 2016 between the EU Business Council in Dhaka and the Commerce Ministry, with the aim to jointly remove impediments that obstruct EU trade and investment in Bangladesh. Discussions take place in five Joint Working Groups which have focus on business concerns in five key areas, namely: import duties/custom/trade facilitation; licenses and investment in services sector; financial flows; tax regime and pharmaceuticals.
The Heads of Mission underlined at the 28 April meeting that the Business Climate Dialogue is a good opportunity for Bangladesh to seek feedback from important EU stakeholders on improving the business environment and, by doing so, attract more EU trade and investment to the country. This would be beneficial both to Bangladesh and the EU.
They noted that the policy reform process in Bangladesh has proved to be lengthy and complex. Regulatory unpredictability, uncertainty, and the lack of coherence in policy implementation are major barriers to doing business, as highlighted in recent international and domestic reports. They called on the Dialogue to be used by both sides as a vehicle to deliver improvements.
They said that there is a need for action in favour of reform at all levels within the Ministries. Political declarations should be accompanied with corresponding actions aimed at improving the modus operandi within the Administrations.
The Heads of Mission further suggested the Government should take steps to make doing business easy and fair for all. They expressed a desire that the Government will carry out in a timely manner necessary policy reforms in favour of a transparent, accountable and predictable regulatory regime in order to encourage more trade and investment from Europe.
As representatives of the Bangladesh’s largest export market under the GSP Everything but Arms (EBA) unilateral market access arrangement, the EU Heads of Mission in Bangladesh are encouraged by the impressive economic performance by Bangladesh over the past decade that resulted in considerable achievements in the socio-economic domain.
The Heads of Mission fully endorsed the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision to secure by 2021 double-digit ranking for Bangladesh in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index from the current 176th position out of 190 countries.
The Heads of Mission welcomed the willingness expressed by the Hon’ble Commerce Minister to address shortcomings in the Dialogue by producing a time-bound Action Plan on trade policy reforms implementation with precise outputs. They sensed a new energy in the Dialogue further to the Hon’ble Minister’s engagement in resolving existing challenges in the Joint Working Groups deliberations. Among other issues, they stressed that reducing any uncertainty in the current tax regime is crucial.
Keeping on the horizon the national visions to become middle income economy by 2021 as well as secure a sustainable LDC graduation in 2024, the EU Heads of Mission see great potential in Bangladesh for further bilateral trade and investment. For this to happen, though, improved economic governance needs to be ensured which is a key prerequisite if Bangladesh’s recent economic gains were to be sustained.
EU as Bangladesh’s largest trade, development and humanitarian partner will continue to work constructively with the Government of Bangladesh towards better trade and investment relations.
The Heads of Mission therefore look forward to the next meeting of the EU-Bangladesh Business Climate Dialogue with the Hon’ble Commerce Minister in six months’ time and hope that significant progress in terms of policy reforms will have been achieved by then.