Bangladesh should start intensive negotiations with members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to secure the benefits of the platform agreement on the trade aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS), an economist said yesterday.
This should continue even after Bangladesh graduates from the United Nations regime from a less developed one in a developing country in 2026, Debapriya Bhattacharya said in a virtual discussion with a group of journalists.
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The WTO General Council will discuss extending TRIPS benefits to both LDCs and those who graduated from the status quo at a meeting in Geneva on 26-27 July.
“Λαν Bangladesh – in view of the forthcoming General Council meeting – must make a strong negotiating effort and show the necessary political initiative,” said Batahargia, Bangladesh’s former ambassador to the WTO.
If Bangladesh fails to make satisfactory progress in securing the settlement at the next meeting, it should raise the issue at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) scheduled for November 30 to December 3 this year, he said.
However, the preparation time for MC-12, a WTO summit, is also very short, said Bhattacharya, also a member of the UN Development Policy Committee (CDP).
Thus, Bangladesh must take a strong political initiative, said the distinguished associate of the Center for Political Dialogue (CPD).
Bangladeshi missions to some major destinations abroad such as Washington, Brussels, London, Paris and Tokyo should also play a very active role before the General Assembly meeting to secure support for TRIPS expansion after 2026, he said.
In addition to ambassadors, the foreign ministry and the country’s private sector will also have a crucial role to play, he said.
Ensuring TRIPS expansion is crucial for both LDCs and those graduating to sell intellectual property in low-income countries so that the masses can access goods at affordable prices, Bhattacharya said.
For example, the Bangladeshi pharmaceutical industry has grown a lot over the years due to the TRIPS resignation for this LDC, he said.
Currently, local pharmaceuticals can meet more than 95 percent of home demand and also export to many countries.
Through this promising sector, Bangladesh exported $ 169 million worth of pharmaceuticals, up 25 percent year-on-year last year, he said.
However, the TRIPS installation may not continue forever in the LDCs, including Bangladesh. The country should also not always seek trade preferences from developed and developing countries, he said.
Instead, Bangladesh needs to improve its local market and innovation-related infrastructure and intellectual property, such as active drug parks (APIs).
The current global intellectual property market is estimated at $ 410 billion and that dominates the Fourth Industrial Revolution, he said.
In the future, when Bangladesh signs any preferential, bilateral or free trade agreement or a comprehensive economic partnership, it should carefully consider TRIPS, he said.
Usually, TRIPS facilities are not given to countries that have already done the grading. Countries face challenges in classifying the situation as prices for some basic commodities rise.
However, there are some exceptions and it depends on strong bargaining power, such as that of the Maldives, which was able to secure its TRIPS facility even after the regime’s graduation, Batahargia said.
According to the CDP recommendations, Bangladesh’s graduation is scheduled for 2026 and TRIPS facilities for LDC medicines, which have existed since 1995 and have undergone a second expansion, were available by 2034.
Thus, according to WTO rules, the TRIPS facility for Bangladesh will be completed in 2026, he said.
However, Bangladesh can use effective negotiations to enjoy the benefits of TRIPS after 2026, said the distinguished CPD partner.
A current proposal seeks the pharmaceutical benefits of another 12 years for LDCs in a post-graduation phase.
There are currently seven LDC graduates among WTO members, Batacharya said in his presentation.
While Chad submitted the proposal on behalf of the LDC Group to the WTO, a large number of Member States set a record to appreciate the constructive role played by the Bangladeshi delegation in this regard.
About 35 WTO LDC members, including Bangladesh, out of the current 46, will certainly benefit from the decision.