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Trade balance in favour of Pakistan: FTA talks this month

New Nation, Bangladesh

Trade balance in favour of Pakistan: FTA talks this month

By Syful Islam

7 March 2006

Bangladesh and Pakistan are likely to begin negotiation on bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) during a three-day visit of Pakistan Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan by the end of this month, sources said.

"FTA negotiation is a part of a major agenda on Pakistan’s mind for enhancing trade between the two countries," Roubina Taufiq Shah, Commercial Secretary of the High Commission for Pakistan in Dhaka told The New Nation yesterday.

During the visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia to Pakistan in February the two countries agreed to go for the FTA and to finalise the agreement by September 30 this year.

Trade position between the two countries always remains in favour of Pakistan. Bangladesh suffered a trade deficit of Tk 142.64 crore with Pakistan during the first quarter of fiscal year 2005-06 with Bangladesh’s exports totalling Tk 64.29 crore and imports amounting to Tk 206.93 crore.

Bangladesh exports raw jute, jute goods, chemical, plastic and tea to Pakistan while its major imports included textile and textile chemical, machinery and vehicle.

The possible negotiation for FTA scheduled during the visit of Begum Khaleda Zia to Islamabad that a Pakistan delegation led by its Commerce Minister will visit Bangladesh in March in order to make a successful FTA deal.

"We are taking preparation for the first FTA talk with Pakistan but we are cautious not to annoy India in any way" said a high official of the Ministry of Commerce.

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 on agenda for discussion.

The Minister’s visit is taking place in less than two months after the February 12 to 14 visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia to Pakistan.

Pakistan has been showing increasing interest for the FTA with Bangladesh, although they openly opposed Bangladesh’s interest in the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong. Pakistan did not also ratify the SAFTA agreement yet.