Sri Lanka, Bangladesh mull FTA, bilateral trade up 80%

Friday, 30 November 2012 03:22 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka-Bangladesh bilateral trade is on an upward trend. “In 2011 Lanka-Bangladesh bilateral trade rose to $ 22 m. This is an 83% increase from 2007 trade levels,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 28 November.


Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen with Mohammed Sufiur Rahman, the High Commissioner designate of Bangladesh in Sri Lanka in discussions at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in Colombo this week

Bathiudeen was addressing Mohammed Sufiur Rahman, new High Commissioner designate of Bangladesh in Sri Lanka who made a courtesy call on him at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in Colombo.

Rahman, an MBA from Dhaka University, had previously served at Bangladeshi missions in New Delhi, Geneva and Islamabad and was also a Director in the SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu. Rahman also played the lead role in organising the Colombo Process Meeting in 2011.

“We are keen to expand our trade volumes with Sri Lanka. Bangladesh has no Free Trade Agreements with any other country so far and therefore we are inexperienced in this regard. That does not mean we will not be able to do one with Sri Lanka. In fact, the concept of a Sri Lanka-Bangladesh FTA is under examination. But before going for an FTA, and as a start, I believe that we can make a list of products from both sides rather than an umbrella FTA and start trading them with special tariff concessions or even tariff free, subject to further negotiations,” said Rahman. “I believe that there is strong, unrealised trade potential between the two countries,” he stressed.

“I believe that your FTA intentions are very good and promising,” responded Minister Bathiudeen. “We believe that your arrival will strengthen the follow-up of the Joint Economic Commission between the two countries.”

The fourth Sri Lanka-Bangladesh Joint Economic Commission sessions were successfully held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 8 March. The sessions, revived after almost two decades, resulted in effective renewal of bilateral trade cooperation. Minister Bathiudeen led Sri Lanka’s national delegation to Dhaka in March.

“We see a big convergence of interests between the two countries and we now want to focus on maritime connectivity and people to people contacts with Sri Lanka. We want to recommence the feeder service between Colombo and Chittagong, perhaps using 15,000-20,000 ton range vessels” Rahman stressed.

According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, improvements have been recorded during the last four to five years in Sri Lanka-Bangladesh bilateral trade. Sri Lanka’s exports to Bangladesh have increased by around 150% during the period 2006-2011. Similarly the value of imports from Bangladesh also has increased by 100% in 2011 compared to 2010.

Among Sri Lanka’s top exports to Bangladesh are cotton, mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation, bituminous substances modified starches glues enzymes, miscellaneous chemical products, special woven fabrics, and textile fabrics.

Both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are members of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), the Bangkok Agreement, which is now renamed as Asia Pacific Trading Agreement (APTA), the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Economic and Technical Cooperation (BIMST-EC), the Global System Trade Preferences (GSTP), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).