Sri Lanka’s trade talks with Bangladesh later this year
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 10:13 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
Aug 07, Colombo: Sri Lanka’s trade with Bangladesh, Asia’s fastest growing economy is set to surge when both countries meet for Ministerial trade talks later this year -after almost three years.
The fifth session of the Joint Economic Commission between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka was held in Colombo in 2016.
“Therefore, time has come for the sixth trade session between both countries,” said the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development & Vocational Training Rishad Bathiudeen.
Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Colombo Riaz Hamidullah when the High Commissioner called on the Minister at the Ministry in Colombo on Tuesday (August 6).
The Bangladesh Joint Committee for Economic & Technical Co-operation (SL-BJCETC) at Ministerial Level was last held in Colombo on 9th November 2016.
During the 2016 SL-BJCETC session, ideas were exchanged between the two countries on the proposed Bangladesh-Sri Lanka Bilateral Free Trade Agreement. Also the draft Bilateral Investment Promotion & Protection Agreement (BIPPA), cooperation between the Investment Authorities in Bangladesh (BIDA) and Sri Lanka (BOI), and the draft MoU on standards between BSTI and SLSI were discussed. They later became a reality when MoUs were signed in 2017.
Minister Bathiudeen said in the next session to be held in Dhaka, implementation and also plan next steps of these can be explored.
“The dates for next session need to be agreed and finalized with Bangladeshi side,” said Minister Bathiudeen and added: “Also as the Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama has already announced, the FTA could be signed once the joint feasibility study is finalized.”
The proposed bilateral FTA aims at boosting total trade to higher levels beyond current $150 million levels. According to the Department of Commerce, bilateral trade between both countries in 2018 (Jan-Nov) totaled $156.15 million in comparison to $166 million for all twelve months of 2017. The balance of trade has been in favor of Sri Lanka over the years. Exports to Bangladesh were at $124 million (2018 Jan-Nov) growing by 34% in the five years since 2014. Sri Lanka’s main exports to Bangladesh in 2018 were plastics, cotton, knitted fabrics, soaps and fuel oil. Even total trade has increased by 34% in the last five years- from $ 116 million in 2014 to $156.15 million in 2018 (Jan-Nov).
In July 2017, after a bilateral meeting between President Maithripala Sirisena and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka, both countries signed 14 instruments- some of them the result of 2016 Colombo session.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are members of regional trade and co-operation agreements, including the South Asian Free-Trade Area (SAFTA), the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation.
Bangladesh has been identified as a fast growing economy. Last month, the Bangladeshi Country Director of Asian Development Bank Manmohan Parkash, speaking in Dhaka said that Bangladesh “will stand out by growing at record 8% in 2019 and 2020, making it the fastest growing economy in Asia-Pacific.”