Dhaka — In the era of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), digital trade in services has become crucial for Bangladesh’s economic growth. Bangladesh needs to prepare for reaping benefits from digital trade in services, opined experts at a virtual webinar.
In view of the above, the policy gaps related to trade in digital services need to be addressed urgently to ensure digital inclusivity. Shedding light on these issues, the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Bangladesh Office organised a virtual dialogue on Trade in Services in the Digital Age on Monday. The dialogue was held as part of the project titled ‘Future of Work in Bangladesh’ which is being implemented by the CPD, with support from FES Bangladesh.
The keynote presentation at the dialogue was made by MD Kamruzzaman, a former Senior Research Associate of CPD. Sharing the key findings from the study, he mentioned that innovative technology is seeping into the mechanisms of economic sectors worldwide. Professional services are expected to be heavily disrupted by artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, machine learning and digital platforms.
Bangladesh’s exports have been heavily concentrated in the textiles and garments sector. Strategic development and promotion of services trade are among the key approaches needed for Bangladesh to break into new markets. Eliminating barriers to trade in services is therefore vital to ensure market openness in the digital age.
Kamruzzaman added that the volume of trade in DDS has jumped manifold in Bangladesh. Strategic development and promotion of services trade are among the key approaches needed for Bangladesh to break into new markets. Eliminating barriers to trade in services is therefore vital to ensure market openness in the digital age.
Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD moderated the session. In her opening remarks, Dr Fahmida said that digitalisation has made the trade in services much easier. The expanding cross-border tradability of services is opening new opportunities for national economies and individuals. In order to reap the benefits of the 4IR, adequate internet connectivity and ICT infrastructure has to be in place, weaknesses in trade facilitation and trade logistics should be removed and the skills of the workforce will have to be increased.
Felix Kolbitz, Resident Representative, FES Bangladesh delivered the introductory remarks at the dialogue. He shared that the CPD in collaboration with FES Bangladesh, has undertaken a study on “Digital Trade in Services in Bangladesh: How can Bangladesh seize opportunities?” The study discusses how Bangladesh can take advantage of the fast-evolving digital trade in services and what it will take for Bangladesh to adapt to the new trade regime in the digital age.
Dr Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), World Trade Organization (WTO) highlighted the issue of inclusivity in digital trade due to the accessibility, affordability and application challenges. He also highlighted the fact that digital services are not sufficiently inclusive.
Dr Selim Raihan, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka and Executive Director, SANEM questioned the regulatory framework in Bangladesh for digital trade and highlighted how exploitation of loopholes in the regulations by existing businesses lead to sufferings for both the customers and the new businesses. He added that, technological development has led to a fall in labour’s share of national income.
Dr Rashmi Banga, Senior Economic Affairs Officer, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shed light on how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital revolution. Dr Banga suggested for formulating a comprehensive national digital transformation policy and also highlighted the importance of building a data infrastructure for creating new digital products and services.
Md Mahbub Ur Rahman, Chief Executive Officer, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited Bangladesh stated that the opportunities in digital trade are growing and a national realisation is required on what technological advancements are required to grasp these opportunities.
Syed Almas Kabir, President, Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) opined that digital payment needs to be flourished in Bangladesh to ensure a complete process of digital trade.
He also called for mass awareness among netizens about digital platform usages. He focused on the issues of data privacy and security. He also said, Bangladesh is not into research and development regarding digital services.
Dr Fahmida ended the discussion by thanking everyone. High-level policymakers, researchers, development practitioners, academics, business leaders, civil society activists, international development partners and journalists were present at the dialogue.