- B’desh Commerce Minister cites unstable politics in Sri Lanka for delay
- Local authorities say FTA will depend on outcome of ongoing joint feasibility study
- Joint study to be completed end of this year
The Bangladeshi government blamed Sri Lanka’s “unstable political situation” for the slow progress in the proposed Sri Lanka-Bangladesh Free Trade Agreement (SLBFTA).
Bangladesh Commerce and Industries Minister Tofail Ahmed was recently quoted in the Bangladesh-based “The Daily Star” newspaper as saying “We set September 31 as a deadline to ink an FTA with the Lankan government. But unfortunately, Sri Lanka is moving very slowly.” However, speaking to Mirror Business, Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry Secretary Chandani Wijewardana asserted that Sri Lanka would only commence FTA negotiations with Bangladesh, if the outcome of the ongoing joint feasibility is positive.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh earlier this year commenced a joint feasibility study for a potential FTA between the two countries. The committee comprising of trade experts from both countries has been tasked to look into all potential areas, which include goods, services, investments and economic cooperation.
Wijewardana noted that the government expects the joint study to be completed by end of this year.
Bangladesh had planned to sign the FTA with Sri Lanka this year.
In the meantime, Bangladesh is also pushing forward for potential FTAs with Turkey and Thailand as the current duty benefits enjoyed by the country are set to expire once it graduates from the league of least developed countries (LDCs).
Bangladesh currently has a bilateral free trade agreement with Pakistan.
Speaking to the particular media outlet, a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, a Dhaka-based private think-tank, Mustafizur Rahman has said that the delay of the FTA signing with Sri Lanka is due to powerful anti-FTA lobbying in Sri Lanka that opposes bilateral trade deals. However, Rahman recommended the Bangladeshi government to continue lobbying, until Sri Lanka signs the agreement.