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Pak commerce minister arrives April 19

Daily Star, Dhaka

Pak commerce minister arrives April 19

Diplomatic Correspondent

29 March 2006

The commerce minister of Pakistan will make a three-day visit to Dhaka from April 19 to attend the Safta Ministerial Council (SMC) meeting and initiate talks on signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh.

Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan will discuss with the government leaders and high-ups the signing of the FTA by September 30 this year, official sources said.

The signing of the FTA will be in compliance with an accord signed between the two countries during Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s visit to Islamabad in late February.

Pakistan has preferred settling the FTA issue to go for enhancement of bilateral trade.

Bangladesh suffered trade deficit to the tune of Tk 142.64 crore with Pakistan during the first quarter of 2005-06 fiscal year. Bangladesh exported goods worth Tk 64.29 crore whereas its imports amounted to Tk 206.93 crore.

Bangladesh exports raw jute, jute goods, chemicals, plastic and tea to Pakistan, while its major imports include textile and textile chemicals, machinery and vehicles.

Meanwhile, the first meeting of the SMC, comprised of the commerce ministers of the Saarc states, will be held in Dhaka on April 20. The meeting aims at taking measures to make operational the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) that has been given legal effect since this January.

The SMC will review and finalise the Safta implementation arrangements. It will also review the progress of launching trade liberalisation programme (TLP) under the Safta agreement with effect from July 1, 2006.

A two-day meeting of the Safta Committee of Experts (CoE) will precede the SMC meet on April 18-19.