Bangladesh wants Sri Lanka FTA soon; PM promises to expedite

Bangladesh has urged Sri Lanka to sign the bilateral free trade agreement, which has been pending for 3 years, to enhance trade between the two countries, which currently stands at around $150 million.

Bangladesh’s The Daily Star newspaper reported that Bangladeshi Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal made the request yesterday during a meeting with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Hanoi, Vietnam, on the sidelines of the Indian Ocean Conference.

Kamal had requested Wickremesinghe to take steps to speed up the preparatory work for finalising the FTA, and raised the issue of the coastal shipping agreement, which has also seen several delays. The Agreement is aimed at saving transshipment costs and time for both countries, to boost its competitiveness in the global market and bolster bilateral trade.

Wickremesinghe had assured Kamal that Sri Lanka will expedite both the FTA and maritime agreements and added that a good number of Sri Lankans are working in Bangladesh in a very friendly environment, mostly in technical and managerial positions, supporting the manufacturing and service sectors.

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka agreed to sign the FTA back in 2016 but it has seen several delays and in March this year, Bangladeshi Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said Bangladesh will sign the agreement in October.

The signing of the Bangladesh FTA will make Sri Lanka the only South Asian nation to have FTAs with the three major economies of South Asia, giving Sri Lankan exporters unparalleled access to a market of 1.7 billion consumers. Sri Lanka signed FTAs with India and Pakistan in 1998 and 2005 respectively.