Sunday, June 4, 2023

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SL to fast-track Preferential Trade Agreement with Bangladesh

By: Staff Writer

Colombo (LNW):In the wake of Bangladesh government’s generosity in extending the repayment period of US$200 million currency swap facility by six more months recently, Sri Lanka is set to expedite Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between the two countries under the guidance of the International Trade Office.

Sri Lanka has requested Bangladesh to resume negotiations to sign a proposed preferential trade agreement (PTA) by April with an eye to boosting bilateral trade between the two countries.

As part of the move, the Lankan High Commission in Dhaka has proposed to hold a virtual meeting on April 24 to discuss the current status and way forward.The mission has also requested Dhaka to inform its concurrence on the proposed date soon.

“We have received a note verbale from the Sri Lankan High Commission in Dhaka. We’re working on the issue,” according to a Bangladeshi official concerned.

He said “But we are not in favour of resuming negotiations on April 24 as proposed by Colombo. It is supposed to defer the date as it’s an Eid-ul-Fitr holiday.”

The PTA negotiations between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are expected to resume on April 27 or in the first week of May, stated the official. Earlier, primary negotiations on the proposed deal were postponed due to months of political turmoil there, according to him.

Bangladesh Commerce ministry formed a high-powered trade negotiation committee (TNC) to take steps to this end.Additional secretary (FTA) of the ministry was named the chief negotiator of the committee.

The 12-member committee is working in coordination with the Sri Lankan side to carry forward the negotiations.

Under the proposed deal, both governments have already exchanged request lists of products as Bangladesh earlier sent a list of more than 100 products.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka sent a list of 112 items, seeking duty-free access to Bangladesh market.Meanwhile, economists have advocated signing PTAs and FTAs (free trade agreements) with different countries to address the challenges when Bangladesh graduates to the next level.

They said preferential trade deals would help Bangladesh boost exports significantly.Another commerce ministry high official said, “We need to sign several PTAs and FTAs before (Bangladesh’s) graduation to reap the benefits of the least-developed country category…”

After its graduation, he added, Bangladesh would lose various tariff-related facilities that it now enjoys as a least-developed country (LDC).

Earlier in 2017, both Dhaka and Colombo completed necessary preparations to sign an FTA, but the move did not see the light of day for internal issues.

Some issues, including revenue losses, have been involved with FTAs as all products of both the countries under FTAs enjoy duty-free facility.

In March 2021, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka signed 06 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to increase bilateral cooperation between the two nations.

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