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Dhaka Tribune

Dhaka to sign PTA with Colombo

Update : 01 Mar 2014, 07:34 PM

Bangladesh is going to sign the first-ever Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Sri Lanka soon to further enhance the existing bilateral trade relations between the two South Asian countries.  

“As the Malaysian counterpart is not yet ready for signing the Preferential  Trade Agreement (PTA) with us, we are now going to sign the PTA with another South Asian country Sri Lanka,’’ said a commerce ministry  official.

“We are going to sign the first-ever PTA with Sri Lanka to free Bangladesh from the longstanding stigma that we are a conservative nation, having no bilateral free trade area,” commerce secretary Mahbub Ahmed told the Dhaka Tribune recently. 

Though Bangladesh enjoys some free trade area (FTA) facilities under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAPTA) of the Regional Cooperation SAARC, he added.

“However, we are yet to get any such trading facilities from any of the developing countries.”

According to commerce ministry sources, the ministry had formally sent a pamphlet to the Malaysian counterpart four months ago, but there has been no positive response as yet.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have agreed to conduct a study on both sides before signing the PTA between the two countries. Both the governments will sign the PTA as soon as the study is done, said the commerce ministry officials.

The visiting Sri Lankan Secretary for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Anura Siriwardena said, “Many areas in bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka still remain unexplored.”

“To explore the areas and boost bilateral trade and investment, we have agreed to sign a preferential trade agreement (PTA) very soon,” said Anura while exchanging views with the country’s leading businesses a week back.

A high-powered Sri Lankan delegation, headed by Anura Siriwardena, came to Bangladesh on a two-day visit for attending the joint economic commission meeting to explore ways to boost bilateral trade and investment.

During the meeting with commerce minister Tofail Ahmed, both the minister and the Sri Lankan secretary had expressed their interest to sign the PTA and increase cooperation to help flourish trade and economic relations. 

Bangladesh can import rubber, tea, coconut products, spices, mineral sands, phosphate, shipbuilding materials, and IT-related products etc from Lanka.

On the other hand, local businessmen urged the Sri-Lankan delegation to export more from Bangladesh. Bilateral trade between the counties has been gradually increasing since the civil war in Sri-Lanka ended following defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The bilateral trade was US$48m in 2010, which reached $83m in 2012, marking a 73 per cent rise. The total trade between the countries increased to $107m in 2013, which shows approximately 29 per cent growth. Some 45 Sri Lankan companies have invested $292m so far in Bangladesh under joint ventures. 

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