Tuesday, April 23, 2019 | ePaper

Deal for free trade with Lanka soon

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Special Correspondent :
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on Thursday said that Bangladesh would sign a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) with Sri Lanka to enhance the bilateral trade between the two countries.
"Hopefully, the FTA will be signed in the current tenure of the Awami League government," Tofail Ahmed told reporters in a media briefing.
The Commerce Minister said it after a meeting with the visiting Lankan Development Strategic and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama held in the conference room of the ministry in the afternoon.
"Both the countries have agreed to sign the FTA as soon as possible with an aim to promote bilateral trade and economic cooperation between the two countries," said Tofail Ahmed, adding, "We have already completed feasibility study prior to sign the trade deal. The draft study is expected to be ready within this month. The study recommended for a comprehensive FTA." said  the Minister.
The Commerce Minister further said that concerned trade officials of both the countries had been directed to finalize the study so that the final negotiation to sign the deal could be completed within shortest possible time.
"Despite huge possibility, the volume of the Dhaka-Colombo trade remains low and not increasing due to a long-list of sensitive products under SAFTA deal. But once both the countries sign the comprehensive FTA deal, it will help expand the two-way trade manifold, " said Tofail.
The two-way trade between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka stood at US$ 77.82 million in the last fiscal year when Bangladesh's import from Sri Lanka reached US$ 47.80 million and export US$ 30.02.         Tofail Ahmed at the meeting invited the Lankan investors and businessmen to invest in Bangladeshi Special Economic Zones and import local pharmaceuticals products and cement to enhance the two way trade. Both the countries signed shipping protocol to enhance connectivity. Bangladesh Biman will launch Dhaka-Colombo flight next April to expand the connectivity further  Highlighting a poor intra-regional trade, the Lankan Minister Malik Samarawickrama said that his country wants to promote intra-regional trade through various initiatives, including signing of FTA with the neighboring and regional countries.  "In fact, the trade integration among the South Asian countries is the lowest at around 5.3 per cent as against the ASEAN country integration which is at 35 per cent. The SAFTA deal remains largely infective causing the poor trade integration in the region.  He also held Indo-Pak bitter relation responsible for poor intra-regional trade.   
"We are looking at promoting the regional trade by signing FTA deals with the regional countries. We have already signed FTA with Singapore and negotiation is on to sign FTA with Thailand.
Moreover, the FTA negotiation with Bangladesh has advanced much with both the countries have already completed joint study to sign deal which will cover commodity trade, investment and services.  Both the sides will take course of action to sign the deal as soon as possible," said Malik Samarawickrama.
The Lankan Minister expressed the hope that trade and economic cooperation will be grown further once the deal is signed.

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