Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have decided to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2017 in an attempt to boost bilateral trade ties.
Confirming the news, the Bangladeshi Commerce Ministry has said in a statement that the two South Asian nations made a final decision in this regard. Spokesperson of the Bangladeshi ministry Latif Bakshi told the local media in Dhaka that Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed made an official announcement in this regard after attending the recent Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meeting in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. Ahmed said: “Sri Lanka has also expressed willingness to sign the FTA with us. The FTA will be signed soon after the completion of the formalities.”
This year’s JEC meeting was significant, as both Dhaka and Colombo decided to boost bilateral trade co-operation after the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) meeting was cancelled due to India-Pakistan rivalry. Sri Lankan Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, who led his country’s delegation at the JEC meeting, urged other countries in the region to boost co-operation in order to ensure a steady economic growth.
The Bangladeshi delegation welcomed Bathiudeen’s statement, saying that the Sheikh Hasina government in Dhaka was eager to sign Bangladesh’s first FTA with another country. Although Bangladesh (as a least-developed country) enjoys duty-free export benefit to many countries, Sri Lanka does not enjoy such privileges. Ahmed claimed that the proposed FTA would not only boost Bangladesh’s exports, but would also allow Sri Lanka to import goods of global standards at lower prices from his country. The Bangladeshi minister believes that the two countries will benefit from the FTA as Bangladesh produces garments, pharmaceuticals, cement, paper, electrical items and jute products that are high in demand in Sri Lanka.
The volume of bilateral trade was just USD 76 million in 2015-16, of which Bangladesh’s import was USD 45.55 million and Sri Lanka’s USD 30.45 million.