Sajjad - "Bangladesh should aim for GSP+ status by 2021

This week Sajjad pronounced that Bangladesh should target gaining GSP+ status by 2021.

Speaking in Brussels to the Committee on International Trade (INTA) during a special hearing on the implementation of the "Sustainability Compact" in Bangladesh, he stated that the EU should start preparing for the country to move away from the Everything-But-Arms (EBA) qualification and towards the GSP+ trade status.

Addressing the committee as Chair of the INTA Monitoring Group for South Asia, Sajjad was joined by various speakers giving evidence on the issue, including the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA) President, Atiqul Islam.

Sajjad was instrumental in Pakistan gaining its coveted GSP+ trade status and is leading the way for the same in Bangladesh. He recently visited in August 2015 to see the progress being made, meeting with their Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali, Minister of Commerce, Tofael Ahmed, NGOs and various labour organisations.

Speaking on the issue, he said: "At this stage I remain committed to an avenue of making sure that the partnership approach that we have in place continues to require further investment because I do see some very real progress that is coming about.

"I would be very hesitant to try and move in any other direction of travel other than continuing to invest in that partnership approach at this stage, and indeed certainly the direction of travel that I would like to give is that there is a commitment from the government of Bangladesh to try and move themselves out of the LDC (Least-Developed Country) status and to graduate further up in terms of development.

"That is something that we ought to welcome and we ought to start preparing at this stage now to make sure that the European markets remain open for Bangladesh as it moves on that gradual progression of development. That of course means being ready to move Bangladesh away from the Everything-But-Arms qualification status and more towards a GSP+ status by 2021."

The "Sustainability Compact" was launched on 8 July 2013 in order to improve conditions for garment industry workers in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse. It is a joint initiative between the European Commission, the Bangladeshi government and the International Labour Organization.

Bangladesh benefits from duty-free quota-free access to the EU market for all its products under the EBA initiative as a LDC. The EU is its lead trading partner, with total exports to the EU amounting to €9.2 billion in 2012 and 90% of Bangladesh exports to the EU being ready-made garments – corresponding to some 2.5 million jobs.