14 July 2006
Lanka offers free trade pact to Bangladesh
By Indo Asian News Service
Dhaka, July 14 (IANS) Sri Lanka has mooted a free trade agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh citing its positive experience with the ones it has signed with India and Pakistan.
Sri Lanka expressed its ’strong willingness’ to have bilateral FTA and direct flights with Bangladesh to promote trade and investment in a win-win situation, UNB news agency said.
’We’re in negotiations with the Bangladesh government on FTA and we are hopeful it’ll materialise,’ new Sri Lankan High Commissioner Vadivel Krishnamoorthy was quoted as telling a media conference by the Bangladesh Observer newspaper.
He said Sri Lanka has bilateral FTA with India and Pakistan. ’Our experience with India shows that bilateral trade has increased manifold with the signing of FTA following reduction of tariff,’ he said, adding that Sri Lanka and Bangladesh could also benefit from such a deal.
FTAs are slowly becoming the norm in South Asia and Southeast Asia, but the process is slow because the governments have tended to be protectionist, especially on items that are common and competitive in the international markets.
India had offered FTAs to its immediate neighbours but is struggling to sign one with ASEAN with talks continuing for long without any conclusion.
The envoy also suggested direct flights between Dhaka and Colombo to enhance business and people-to-people contact.
Despite hectic negotiations in the past, there has not been a consensus on the proposed air route, as SriLankan Airlines prefers to operate the Colombo-Kolkata-Dhaka route.
’A direct flight is necessary and we’ve to overcome the problem,’ the envoy said.