Dhaka Tribune - 22 March 2021
Dhaka eager to sign free trade agreement with Colombo
Dhaka has expressed its keen interest to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombo to exploit the huge potential of bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
“If it would take time to sign the FTA, we told them we would like to sign a preferential trade agreement initially,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said.
He was speaking at a media briefing on the outcomes of the high-level bilateral meeting between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the Bangladesh side while her Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa led his country in the talks, held this morning at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
“We had a very fruitful discussion … the two leaders laid emphasis on utilizing the huge trade potential between the two countries,” Momen said at the briefing at the Foreign Service Academy in the capital.
The foreign minister said both sides laid emphasis on shipping connectivity and agreed to sign agreements on feeder service between Colombo and Chittagong ports and on costal shipping line.
Besides, the two countries agreed to sign investment promotion agreement and instrument on custom cooperation soon to expedite bilateral investment.
The two leaders agreed to form a joint commission for comprehensive cooperation led by foreign ministers of the two countries to review the progress of all bilateral cooperation including foreign office consultation, commerce secretary-level talks and working groups between the two South Asian nations.
Momen said the Bangladesh side sought Sri Lankan support in resolving the Rohingya crisis considering Colombo a good friend of Naypyidaw.
The foreign minister said after getting briefed by the Bangladesh side about the current situation of the persecuted Rohingyas, the Sri Lanka side assured that they will extend all cooperation to resolve the crisis.
The two sides also agreed to increase cooperation in various fields including pharmaceuticals, IT, agriculture, maritime security and disaster management, he said.
Dhaka expressed keen interest to provide training to Sri Lankan nationals in the field of paddy production, climate adaption, disaster management and information technology and urged Colombo to extend training programs for Bangladeshis on marine fisheries and nursing.
Both the countries reiterated their pledge to support each other on different multilateral platforms including the United Nations.
The Sri Lankan prime minister thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for Bangladesh’s support to Sri Lanka under the Saarc Covid-19 emergency fund.
Rajapaksa also highly lauded the farsighted leadership of Sheikh Hasina in advancing Bangladesh towards building “Sonar Bangla”, envisaged by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her gratitude to her Sri Lankan counterpart for visiting Bangladesh amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Momen said.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam also spoke at the briefing.