Briefly: In three years, Bangladesh will lose the preferential trade treatment that comes with being a ‘least developed country’. So the South Asian country is now trying to sign 11 free trade agreements (FTAs) as quickly as possible.
Bangladesh needs the FTAs to maintain market access for its garments sector, the world’s second largest garments exporter after China. But Bangladesh is also proving an attractive trade and investment partner in its own right:
- It’s a steadily-growing market that’s home to 170 million people, and
- Its instinct to hedge on China has opened new infrastructure investment opportunities for other partners like India and Japan
Intrigue’s take: Bangladesh isn’t the only one preparing to lose its tariff-free perks; six other countries will graduate from the ‘least developed’ group by 2026.
But negotiating FTAs is neither easy nor fast, particularly if you’re a first-timer (just ask the UK). And global trade is slowing. So Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina has quite the climb ahead.
Also worth noting:
- Bangladesh currently has no FTAs, but PM Sheikh Hasina was in Japan last week following reports the two countries are in negotiations.
- Eight ‘least developed’ countries are now in negotiations to join the WTO, including Bhutan, Ethiopia, and São Tomé and Príncipe.