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Dhaka-Islamabad likely to start FTA talks

The DailyStar (Dhaka), 4 March 2006

Dhaka-Islamabad likely to start FTA talks

Pak minister due end March

Unb, Dhaka

Dhaka and Islamabad are likely to start negotiation on bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) soon as Pakistan Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan visits Bangladesh by the end of this month.

The two countries agreed to go for the FTA during Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s visit to Pakistan last month and to finalise the agreement latest by September 30 this year.

The bilateral talks discussed that a Pakistan delegation led by its commerce minister will visit Bangladesh soon in order to make a successful FTA deal.

"The visit of Pakistan commerce minister may take place at the latter part of this month," a senior commerce ministry official told the news agency.

He said both the sides are working on the visit following a proposal from the Pakistan minister for a two-day visit to Bangladesh. They are also working out issues of discussion.

The Pak minister’s visit is taking place in less than two months after the February 12-14 visit of Bangladesh prime minister to Pakistan.

The Pak minister’s visit would be a follow-up one on the Bangladesh prime minister’s visit to Pakistan and to start negotiation on the Bangladesh-Pakistan FTA.

"We’ve not decided yet," the official told the news agency on Bangladesh’s position about the FTA.

"If the government asks for negotiation, we’ll be able to do it even tomorrow," he said, apparently indicating that the country has the "basic preparation" for negotiating the deal.

Pakistan is showing increasing interest for the FTA with Bangladesh, although they openly opposed Bangladesh’s interest at the WTO ministerial conference in Hong Kong.

Bangladesh suffered a trade deficit of US$ 75 million with Pakistan in fiscal 2004-05 with Bangladesh’s exports totalling $ 63 million and imports amounting to $ 139 million.

Major Bangladesh exports included jute, jute products and tea while its major imports included textile and textile items and vegetables.

 source: Daily Star