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Bangladesh calls for 2018 FTA with Sri Lanka


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  • ‘Let us sign before 2018-end’ - B’desh Commerce Minister Ahmed
  • ‘Working Group to meet before 2017-end’ - Bathiudeen
  • ‘Trade volumes rising but can do better’ - B’desh Commerce Minister Ahmed
  • ‘Yes, trade lacking despite being in the same region’ - Bathiudeen
  • SL-B’Desh third Joint Working Group meet coming to Colombo  
  • YoY bilateral biz with B’desh up 11% 

Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen with Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed 

 

With Sri Lanka-Bangladesh trade continuing its steady climb, a top Bangladeshi Minister recently issued a call for a free trade agreement with Sri Lanka to be drafted as early as next year, as yet another Sri Lanka-Bangladesh Working Group on Trade is also to be set up in Colombo.

“Our present bilateral trade has been on the rise but the volumes are not so great,” stressed Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed while speaking in Colombo on 30 August. 

Bangladeshi Minister Ahmed was speaking to Sri Lankan Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen. The High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Sri Lanka Riaz Hamidullah also joined the high-level discussion.

In the period from 2012-2016, bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka surged by 43% to $ 142 million (2016). Even YoY trade increased during this period every year. In 2016 alone there was an 11% surge from 2015’s $ 131 million.

“It is time that we focus on much broader trade levels than at present,” stressed Ahmed. “I propose we speed up the proposed FTA between both countries. It is great if we can conclude the FTA by the end of next year and I propose so. Meanwhile, we can conclude the next Joint Working Group before that, in view of the FTA. It is time to broaden the trade baskets as well. For instance, Sri Lanka can buy more Bangladeshi pharmaceutical products at lower costs,” he said. 

The first meeting of the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group (JWG) on Trade was held in Dhaka in February 2014 and both sides agreed on feasibility studies for a framework arrangement to boost bilateral trade. Cabinet approval was granted in May 2014 and the feasibility study (Sri Lanka Segment) was subsequently completed. According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka under Minister Bathiudeen, during the second JWG meeting in Colombo in September 2014 both sides agreed that after finalisation of the studies and consultation with the stakeholders “negotiations for a potential PTA/FTA or any other institutional mechanism may be initiated.” “I too agree that being in the South Asian region, our present trade levels do not reflect maximum outcomes,” responded Minister Bathiudeen. “We are working for the third Joint Working Group session between both countries to be held in Colombo anytime before the end of this year. The prospects of an FTA is being studied by my officials and our President Maithripala Sirisena’s Dhaka visit this July has provided further impetus for strengthening trade cooperation between both countries. Therefore better times are ahead for our bilateral trade.”

Once the Sri Lanka-Bangladesh FTA is initiated, Sri Lanka will emerge as the sole South Asian nation to have clinched FTAs with the three big league economies of South Asia, thereby entering a dominant 1.7 billion-strong market for Sri Lankan exports. Sri Lanka’s other two well-known FTAs are with India and Pakistan.


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