Sri Lanka – Bangladesh talks conclude successfully, nature of historic pact to be decided next

  • 2nd SL-B’desh JWG minutes inked in Colombo
  • Rishard commends “great” work
  • B’Deshi Secy. says will be back soon
  • Bilateral trade jumps by 67%

Ministry of Commerce of Bangladesh Additional Secretary (FTA) and Leader of the Visiting Delegation Manoj Kumar Roy (left) and Department of Commerce DG R.D.S. Kumararatne exchange the signed minutes of the second Bangladesh-Sri Lanka JWG on Trade session yesterday in Colombo as Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen (centre) and Ministry of Industry and Commerce Secretary Anura Siriwardene (standing, right) and other Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan officials look on

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh successfully inked their second bilateral Joint Working Session yesterday in Colombo, but decided to hold back on the exact nature of the Trade Agreement to be reached.

“I congratulate members of both teams for this successful effort. It is plainly evident now that you have had intensive discussions and preparations during these two days,” said Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, addressing the six-member Bangladeshi official trade delegation led by Ministry of Commerce of Bangladesh Additional Secretary (FTA) Manoj Kumar Roy yesterday at the concluding session of the two-day bilateral sessions.
On the occasion, the mutually-agreed minutes were inked by Commerce Department Director General R.D.S. Kumararatne and Bangladeshi Additional Secretary Kumar Roy in the presence of Minister Bathiudeen, Secretary Anura Siriwardena, High Commission of Bangladesh in Colombo Acting High Commissioner F.M. Borhan Uddin as well as delegation members of both sides.

According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, bilateral trade between both countries jumped by a strong 67% in 2013 to $ 139.23 m (from 2012’s $ 83.19 m). Sri Lanka’s leading exports to Bangladesh in 2013 were apparel (cotton, fabrics, narrow woven fabrics and other articles of apparel) and enzymes. Leading imports from Bangladesh in 2013 were medicaments, apparel, electric accumulators and potatoes.

“I congratulate members of both delegations for this successful effort. It is plainly evident that you have had intensive discussions and work during these two days,” said Bathiudeen. “Department of Commerce Director General R.D.S. Kumararatne has briefed me that your officials will return to Bangladesh and after some more deliberations, will inform us of the exact nature of the agreement Bangladesh wants – a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) or a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Whatever the form, our Government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be positive on the requirements that you have. It is now time to move beyond current trade levels.”

“We have had strong progress during these two days. We thank you for the levels of support we received. There is no doubts whatsoever that both countries will be renewing trade in a big way,” said Bangladeshi Additional Secretary Kumar Roy, responding to Bathiudeen.
If the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka FTA is realised, it will be the first-ever FTA for Bangladesh, whose GDP stands at $ 140 b. As for Sri Lanka, it would open a single entry point for an important regional economic corridor – the BCIM economic corridor (Bangladesh, China, India, and Myanmar corridor) – giving it the much-needed strategic trade connectivity to Myanmar, Eastern Indian ‘continent’ and more importantly, a faster jump-off point to the ASEAN markets.
In the Joint Statement issued by the leaders of both countries during the State visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Bangladesh from 18-20 April, 2011, the need of enhancing bilateral trade relations between the two countries was emphasised.

The first meeting of the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group (JWG) on Trade was held in Dhaka in February 2014. For the latest talks in Colombo, the Bangladeshi team was joined by FM Borhan Uddin (Acting High Commissioner, High Commission of Bangladesh, Colombo). The Sri Lankan team was led by Ministry of Industry and Commerce Secretary Anura Siriwardena and consisted of Department of Commerce DG R.D.S. Kumararatne and DoC officials, as well as reps from the Sri Lanka Standards Institution, Ministry of Economic Development and Tourist Board, Department of Trade and Investment Policy, Department of Customs, and the EDB.