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 coastal shipping lines.

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.

The two sides also agreed to increase cooperation in various fields including pharmaceuticals, IT, agriculture, maritime security and disaster management, he said.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh Central Banks will conduct talks over a swap arrangement, a joint communiqué said after a visit by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to the South Asian neighbour.

“Two leaders agreed to request their respective Central Banks and other financial institutions to cooperate closely in investments, SWAPs and technical issues,” a joint statement said.

State Minister for Money and Capital Markets Nivard Cabraal has said that Bangladesh’s central bank used to have Sri Lanka sovereign bonds in its portfolio. He has also suggested that Pakistan and Sri Lanka invest forex reserves in each other’s sovereign bonds, subject to limits.

(dhakatribune.com)

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