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Bangladesh needs preferential trade terms beyond 2026, PM says

Sheikh Hasina Seeks Smooth Transition From 'least Developed' To 'developing' Status

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Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses Nikkei's Future of Asia forum with a video message on May 27.

TOKYO -- Bangladesh last year gained United Nations recognition to move from "least developed country" (LDC) status to "developing country" in 2026, although Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is asking for extended assistance from OECD countries beyond that time frame.

"We have urged through the U.N. mechanism to our friends and partners to consider extending preferential facilities to Bangladesh for an extended period beyond 2026," Hasina said in a prerecorded speech during Nikkei's Future of Asia conference on Friday.

"We would deeply appreciate if Japan and other OECD countries do it at least till 2029 to help us to attain the overarching goals of sustainable development by 2030," she said.

Bangladesh, one of the fastest growing economies of the Asia-Pacific region, met the targets to move above LDC in 2018.

After the second review in February 2021, the U.N. recommended an official change in status in 2026. Such a move will improve the country's image, and mark a major milestone given that last year was only Bangladesh's 50th anniversary of independence from Pakistan.

On the other hand, the removal of LDC status also has some disadvantages. For example, Bangladesh will lose special preferential treatment in export tariffs. "We are already taking various measures for a smooth graduation," she said.

The country is looking for free-trade agreements with several countries and is "open to negotiating FTA and [the] Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with other countries including Japan."

The Future of Asia is Nikkei's flagship annual conference. This year's theme is "redefining Asia's role in a divided world." The annual event opened on Thursday with addresses from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and others. Read our full rundowns of Day 1 and Day 2.