Three of the South Asian Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal - are in various stages of graduating from LDC status. As per the existing schedule, Bangladesh has fulfilled the criteria to graduate for the first time in 2018 and could graduate as early as 2024. Bhutan is scheduled to graduate in 2023 and Nepal’s case of graduation has been deferred to 2021 by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP). As LDCs, these countries receive special and differential treatment (S&DT) which is supportive of achieving structural transformation and diversification of markets and products, benefit from Aid-for-Trade and other initiatives. They get S&DT in the multilateral context as well as in their regional or bilateral preferential trade agreements. Upon graduation, these privileges and benefits will be withdrawn, and countries will be required to put supporting policies in place to minimize the risk of being marginalised.
Despite impressive progress made in terms of economic growth and development, South Asian LDCs continue to face multiple challenges of low productivity, small economic base, highly concentrated export structure, lack of employment opportunities for emerging youth and several other vulnerabilities, including those stemming from climate change. As highlighted in the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA) for LDCs, of particular relevance to LDCs is strengthening productive capacities and addressing rural development, as most of the population in these economies depends upon the rural sectors for livelihood. Indeed, productivity needs to improve, particularly in agriculture, to eradicate poverty and hunger.
As a part of its mandate, ESCAP has been providing customized capacity-building and policy advisories to support Asia-Pacific countries with special needs (CSN) in meeting their development goals. This Workshop is prepared as part of a series of activities led by ESCAP, with a long-term multi-disciplinary approach and with collective support from different divisions of ESCAP, to assist South Asian LDCs in meeting the specific challenges relating to LDC graduation and the achievement of SDGs.
This Workshop is organised to assist Bhutan in its roadmap for LDC graduation, also identifying, by using an integrated approach, possible ways forward for meeting the goals relating to IPoA and SDGs. The discussions will give due importance to specific challenges faced by Bhutan as a landlocked country. The workshop will also provide opportunity to exchange views on common challenges relating to LDC graduation being faced by Bangladesh and Nepal. The objectives of the Workshop are:
(i) To identify priorities and developmental challenges by reviewing progress in Bhutan towards smooth transition to graduation.
(ii) To review impact on existing flexibilities and other special and differential treatments for LDC in the WTO and RTAs.
(iii) To identify future capacity building needs for effective and smooth transition to graduate from LDC.
- Session 1.1 Challenges of graduation and their relevance with development priorities of the 2030 Agenda
- Session 1.2 LDC graduation: Potential implications and policy imperatives for Bhutan
- Session 2 LDC graduation and WTO
- Session 3 EU - Bhutan Trade Support
- Session 4 Assessing the impacts of the loss of non-reciprocal preferences and S&D under RTAs: Policy options
- Session 5 Voluntary National Review: Overview and opportunities
- Session 6 Opportunities for supply-side reforms for building trade resilience
- Session 7.1 LDC graduation and structural transformation: Policy priorities and financing options
- Session 7.2 Structural transformation, backward and forward linkages and job creation in Asia-Pacific LDCs
- Session 9 Group presentations