By Kelum Bandara
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed to further facilitate betel imports among others, from Sri Lanka by eliminating the present bottlenecks raised by the Sri Lankan side, Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardane said yesterday.
The Pakistani leader concluded his two day bilateral visit to Sri Lanka last week. Minister Gunawardane who participated in bilateral negotiations with him told Daily Mirror the trade balance was heavily in favour of Pakistan , and Prime Minister Khan pledged to take measures to reduce it by entertaining more imports from Sri Lanka. The bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which is in force will be examined further to remove barriers for trading.
“Our exports to Pakistan stand at around US $ 100 million whereas we import items valued US $ 400 million. We brought this to the notice of Prime Minister Khan who was concerned about it. Of our exports, betel leaves account for 20 percent. We are planning to develop betel export villages in the country. Our revenue from betel exports has dwindled due to tariff barriers in Pakistan ,” the Minister said. The Pakistani Prime Minister mooted the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor for Sri Lanka to connect with the Central Asian countries. Mr. Gunawardane said the Pakistani leader offered to help Sri Lanka to arrange for Sri Lankan exporters to warehouse their products in Pakistan to be exported to the countries such as Uzbekistan. “I was invited to visit Pakistan with a trade delegation soon,” he said.