Sri Lanka, Bangladesh to sign free trade accord next year

Colombo, Nov 10 (IANS) Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are likely to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) in March 2017, which will boost trade and pave way for a huge cross-border cargo trans-shipment via the Port of Colombo, officials said on Thursday.

Bangladesh’s Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, who is in Sri Lanka on an official visit, said that the FTA can become a reality when Sri Lanka’s high-level leaders visit Dhaka in March, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Today (Thursday) both sides completed trade discussions successfully,” the Bangladesh minister said.

“The Shipping Ministry of Bangladesh is also cooperating in this. We decided to use Colombo port in our future trans-shipments as we feel other regional ports to be expensive,” he added.

Through its feeder vessels, Bangladesh has already trans-shipped to the US and Europe via Port Kelang, Singapore and Colombo.

Trans-shipments to Europe, the Middle East and the US via the Colombo Port are considered to bring in great savings for Bangladeshi exporters, saving as many as four shipping days to America alone, the minister said.

Sri Lanka’s Minister of Commerce Rishard Bathiudeen, during discussions, invited Bangladeshi companies to invest in state pioneered projects in Sri Lanka, as well as in the country’s apparel industry.

Total bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which stood at $48 million in 2010, has grown to $131 million by 2015.

Sri Lanka’s exports to Bangladesh have seen a steady increase in the past five years. In 2013, it recorded the highest increase of 45 per cent.

–IANS

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