Sri Lanka and Bangladesh could be inking either a preferential trade agreement (PTA) or a free trade agreement (FTA) in the near future, following talks between the newly appointed Bangladeshi High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Tarik Ashan and Industry and Commerce Minister Rishard Bathiudeen, a statement from the Industry and Commerce Ministry said.“At my final meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina just before my departure to Colombo, she advised me to focus strongly on trade during my new tenure in Sri Lanka.
I am pleased to inform you that the trade agreement under discussion between both countries at present will come to a successful end,” High Commissioner Ashan said yesterday.According to High Commissioner Ashan, the agreement will be signed immediately after the technical details have been finalised.
He said that in the meantime, responses will be formed for the trade suggestions made during the second bilateral Joint Working Session in Colombo on September 23.
Minister Bathiudeen welcomed t he response by Bangladesh and said the government is looking forward to any form of agreement, whether a PTAor an FTA.
“In fact, we welcome a free trade agreement if you so choose. Despite increase in trade, there is still a great potential for win-win outcomes and therefore, it is now time to move beyond the current trade levels. A trade agreement is the way forward to move towards bigger bilateral export baskets and volumes,” he said.The bilateral trade between the countries has tripled over the past few years, while according to the Sri Lankan Commerce Department, Bangladesh is the 25th export destination of Sri Lanka in 2013. Bilateral trade between the countries increased by 67 percent to US $ 139.23 million in 2013 from US $ 83.19 million in 2012.Sri Lanka’s leading exports to Bangladesh in 2013 were apparel and enzymes, while leading imports were medicaments, apparel, electric accumulators and potatoes.