Dhaka, Colombo agree to sign PTA to pave way for FTA

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka has agreed to sign a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) allowing duty-free access to a range of goods between the two countries and thus boost bilateral trade further.

This interim arrangement will be signed as it requires much time to complete a study for inking a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two friendly countries of the South Asia, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said on Saturday.

Speaking at a press conference at the Foreign Service Academy, he said, “Bangladesh is interested in signing a FTA with Sri Lanka. As an initial step to do that, the two sides agreed to take forward the process of signing a PTA.”

He said Sri Lank wants to go slow over the FTA signing. “So, the two countries will sing the PTA giving priority to some selective items.”

During the bilateral talks between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, Momen said the two leaders stressed the need for using the huge potential for increasing the bilateral trade between the two friendly nations.

He said some agreements were renewed as those had not been executed earlier for various reasons, including the change in government in Sri Lanka.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen were also present.

About the PTA, Shahriar said both Bangladesh and Sri Lank had completed the necessary preparations to sign a FTA in 2017, but it did not happen due to the change in internal politics in Sri Lanka.

Stating that signing FTAs with the regional countries is the top priority of the government, he said it will take a long time to complete a detailed study for signing such a deal with Sri Lanka.

“Accepting this reality, we’ve taken an interim arrangement for free access of some products instead of waiting a long time for the FTA. This arrangement is PTA which was discussed by the two heads of government and they agreed in principal to sign it,” the junior minister said.

Earlier in December last year, Bangladesh signed a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Bhutan.

Dr Momen said they also talked about a coastal shipping agreement with Sri Lanka as it is a priority agenda of Bangladesh.

During the bilateral meeting, he said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina focused on connectivity and its benefits for all the regional countries. “Sri Lanka has agreed to sign the coastal shipping agreement initially through private sector. We’ve said we don’t have any objection to it.”

Once the coastal service begins, the minister said both countries will be benefited through importing and exporting various goods and food items and crops. “We discussed the matter elaborately and it’ll create another business scope for us.”

He said they also talked about increasing the frequency of the air connectivity as over 30,000 Sri Lankan nationals work in Bangladesh. “We gave importance to connectivity as concavity means productivity. Sri Lanka also believes that connectivity is the future of this region.”

Besides, the minister said the two leaders decided to expedite agreements on expanding bilateral investment, customs cooperation and avoiding double taxation.

Momen said the Sri Lankan Prime Minister also assured them of necessary cooperation in resolving the Rohingya crisis as the country has friendly relation with Myanmar.

He also talked about the six MoUs signed with Sri Lanka to enhance cooperation between the two countries in different areas.

Source: United News of Bangladesh