Bangladesh should set marketing strategies for its goods now, as the country will no longer enjoy the duty benefit once it leaves the least-developed country status by 2021, a European diplomat said yesterday. International buyers will also take long-term strategies in line with Bangladesh’s plans, said Johan Frishell, Swedish ambassador to Bangladesh. Frishell was speaking at a discussion on “$50 billion by 2021: innovation, the strategic business driver”, on the sidelines of the fifth Bangladesh Denim Expo at International Convention City Bashundhara in Dhaka. Currently, Bangladesh has been enjoying zero-duty benefit to the EU under its Everything But Arms scheme and Generalised System of Preferences to some other countries as a least-developed country, but the trade benefit will not be in place once it is declared a developing country. As a result, Bangladeshi garment items to the EU will face 12.50 percent duty after 2021. If Bangladesh wants to continue enjoying the zero-duty benefit to the EU after 2021, the country should attain the GSP Plus status by maintaining the international standards in fighting corruption, maintaining environmental balance and ensuring human rights.Bangladesh should also think about the innovation of products, Frishell said. If there is a long-term plan, the business would be sustainable and the international buyers will have confidence in them, he said. The buyers will also have long-term predictability about Bangladeshi markets and production, he said. “Long-term predictability is the key to sustainability,” Frishell said. Bangladesh should also negotiate bilaterally with major markets like the EU, Canada and the US for receiving the duty benefit once it becomes a developing country. United efforts will be needed to make the garment sector sustainable, said Thomas Prinz, German ambassador to Bangladesh. Accord, an agreement on factory safety, should continue, Prinz said, adding that now is the time to brand Bangladesh. “Bangladesh should not only think about productivity; the products should be socially and environmentally compliant.”The Bangladeshi entrepreneurs must take responsibility and ownership so that sustainable growth comes from within with commitment and aspiration for excellence, said Roger Hubert, regional head of Bangladesh and Pakistan of H&M. “Water scarcity is one of the biggest challenges for Bangladesh and its textile/RMG industries. ”Water, chemical and waste management need attention of the government and the entrepreneurs, Hubert said. Speed and innovation with agility are a key to future growth, he said. Local manufacturers should give more focus on research and development to build their own set of designs, Hubert said. An educated and skilled labour force is a precondition for efficiency improvement and innovation, he said. There must be a mandatory industrial accident and life insurance in place,” Hubert said. “Capacities and capabilities need to be built up to protect and carry forward the achievements of Accord and Alliance in Bangladesh’s factory safety. Small and medium, compliant enterprises are needed as a platform for innovation through creativity and agility. ”Marketing is very important for reaching the target of exporting $50 billion worth of apparel items by the end of 2021, said Najeeb Sayed, country manager and dress director of PVH Bangladesh. Sayed suggested increasing the efficiency level as the prices of garment items did not rise over the years. For example, the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee increased to $6.99 from $3.99 over the last 10 years, but the price of a shirt remained the same at $20 during the period, although production cost went up manifold. Workers’ efficiency level should be raised, so maximum production can be ensured with less workers and cost of production goes down, Sayed said. Adaptability is important so the workers can become habituated to the innovation and technology, said Tuomo Poutiainen, programme manager for the garment sector at International Labour Organisation. “Private sector should play a leading role. Skills development of the workers is important. ”Most probably we are going to achieve the target of exporting $50 billion worth of garment items by the end of 2021, said Arshad Jamal Dipu, chairman of Tusuka Group. “Political situation should remain calm like now. At least 2,000 new garment factories are needed to hit the $50 billion target. ”Mohammed Nasir, vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, moderated the session.