April 20, 2011
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have agreed to remove the constraints of tariff and non-tariff regime, and go for simplification and harmonisation of mutually recognised standards to boost bilateral trade that now stands at only $45 million a year.
Addressing a joint press conference with his Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni in Dhaka yesterday, Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peiris said the Joint Economic Commission meeting to be held here shortly will take up the issues including the Agreement on Investment Promotion and Protection.
He also said Sri Lanka is ready to initiate talks with Bangladesh regarding Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries. Both the sides also agreed to diversify the tradable goods and look for innovative ways to give a fresh impetus to trade relations, he added.
Turning to the current situation in Sri Lanka, the minister said terrorism in his country impeded expansion of trade and “we have now embarked upon a new era to expand e bilateral trade and investment.”
Peiris said after the defeat of terrorists and return of stability in Sri Lanka, a congenial atmosphere has been created to increase investment and trade with Bangladesh. “We are now in the process of accelerating economic activities.”
Peiris and Dipu Moni addressed the joint press conference on the outcome of talks between Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which were followed by the signing of five deals relating to cooperation in the fields of trade, agriculture, fisheries, vocational education and cultural exchange.
The Sri Lankan minister said they discussed political cooperation in exchange of information about terrorist activities and terrorist financing so that the terrors could not raise their heads in the future.
The two foreign ministers said the official talks covered the entire range of bilateral issues, including political, commercial, economic, connectivity and religious matters.
Peiris said after developing their Hambantota deep seaport, they have requested the Bangladesh side to resume the feeder vessel service for Chittagong and Mongla ports via Colombo.
In response, Dipu Moni said Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are engaged in reviewing Shipping Services Agreement, and the proposed feeder service could be addressed through it.
Already there is direct air service between Dhaka and Colombo, and the two sides are considering air cargo transport to meet the present needs.
Dipu Moni said some 500 Sri Lankan students are now engaged in higher studies in Bangladesh, and “we agreed to allow more students for medical and engineering studies here.” The Sri Lankan side agreed to train Bangladeshi nurses, she added.
A joint statement issued yesterday said President Rajapaksa thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government for their steadfast support in combating separatist terrorism in Sri Lanka, and for extending support to his country at international forums.
Bangladesh sought more investment from Sri Lanka in textiles, knitwear, leather, pharmaceuticals, agro-based industries and steel and engineering, education and health sectors.
As Bangladesh sought Sri Lanka’s support to Bangladesh’s candidature for non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council for 2016-17, the Sri Lankan side assured that the request would be given due consideration.
Rajapaksa requested Bangladesh government’s cooperation in obtaining the Sacred Hair Relics of Lord Buddah for exposition in Sri Lanka, and the Bangladesh side assured of cooperation.
The Sri Lankan President will leave here for Colombo today ending his three-day state visit.
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