Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will sign a Free Trade Agreement before the end of the year, the two countries jointly announced at the end of Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s three-day State visit to Bangladesh where fourteen MOUs were inked including those with IT, banking and shipping sectors.
Meanwhile the two countries said in their joint statement that they were envisaging the setting up of Joint Ventures between the private and public sector entities of the two countries in a wide variety of fields including apparels and pharmaceuticals. Significantly Bangladesh drew Sri Lanka’s attention to the fact that many Sri Lankans are working in Bangladesh in services and professionals and that these constitute the single largest group of workers from the South Asian region in the country and sought similar reciprocal facilities for Bangladeshis to work in Sri Lanka.
Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena agreed to work together to take forward and facilitate the movement of citizens of both countries in a mutually beneficial manner,” the joint statement said. The two leaders also announced that they will work together to promote South Asian cooperation, strengthen SAARC and regional organizations such as BIMSTEC.
The fourteen MoUs on economic cooperation signed during the visit will lead to the signing of a Free Trade Agreement before year end and where the joint ventures will take place in agriculture and agro processing, fisheries, dairy farming, textiles, gems and jewelry, religious and eco-tourism, health management, energy and power and shipping.
A decision was taken to promote investments in the Special Industrial and Economic Zones of the two countries with both governments taking steps to guarantee investments, avoid double taxation, bring down tariffs and reduce non-tariff barriers. In this context Bangladesh requested Sri Lanka to simplify the procedures for the registration of Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies.
Both sides further agreed to engage in facilitating mutually beneficial investments in respective Special Economic Zones, Industrial Parks, Hi-Tech Parks, etc. They expressed optimism that conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and the Board of Investment (BoI) (Sri Lanka) would facilitate mutual investments. They further welcomed conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Bangladesh Bank and the Ceylon Central Bank which should inter alia facilitate mutual collaboration in financial sector and development of financial services.
Sri Lanka which is stricken by increasing incidents of natural disasters is also looking to emulate and draw on examples by Bangladesh in minimizing disaster related human casualties. Bangladesh has offered to share its experience in disaster management as well as its practical knowledge in methods of agricultural production that withstand drought and floods.
The two leaders welcomed the signing of agreements between the investment promotion authorities and Central Banks of the two countries. They hoped that the talks on collaboration in coastal shipping will be concluded soon so that shipping services between the two countries could commence.
Acknowledging that trade between the two countries is far below the potential, Hasina and Sirisena had agreed that in case of the economically meaningful exports, tariff should be further lowered and non-tariff barriers addressed expeditiously. Noting the potential of mutually beneficial collaboration in Pharmaceutical sector, Bangladesh has requested Sri Lanka to simplify the registration process for Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals at the earliest.
Focusing also on the menace of terrorism and religious disharmony the two leaders agreed to organize a broad-based dialogue on tolerance inclusion and pluralism and had set the year 2018 as the time frame for commencement of this initiative.