By Sandun A. Jayasekera
The Federation of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bangladesh (FCCIB) has proposed to set up a Joint Economic Council (JEC) between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to accelerate trade, agriculture, ports and aviation, IT and tourism sector growth.
The highlight of the three-day state visit to Bangladesh by President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the signing of four agreements and an MoU to further strengthen trade ties between the two countries, leveling the trade balance which now remains slightly in favour of Sri Lanka.
The Federation of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bangladesh (FCCIB) drew the attention of President Rajapaksa on the vast opportunities available in Bangladesh for Sri Lankan entrepreneurs in sectors such as power, mining, infrastructure, health and ports
The FCCIB President A.K.Azad said, the establishment of a JEC would promote trade and investments both ways, laying the foundation for a Comprehensive Economic Agreement (CEA) between the two friendly nations.
He said, Bangladesh exports to Sri Lanka in 2009 – 10 period amounted to US$ 23.74 million as opposed to the Sri Lanka exports to Bangladesh which stood at US$ 22.60 million.
During the first six months of the current fiscal year, Bangladesh’s exports to Sri Lanka has been US$ 13.87 million while imports were US$ 12.87 million. Sri Lanka’s investment is not up to her real potential, and only 31 Sri Lankan companies are registered with the Board of Investment in Bangladesh with investments totaling US$ 75 million, Azad pointed out.
The scope of the Joint Cooperation Agreement signed in 1985 between the FCCIB and CCISL needed to be expanded, it was noted.
Meanwhile, the agreements signed between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are related to the removal of non-tariff barriers, simplification and harmonization of mutually recognized standards to diversify the basket of tradable goods and looking into innovative ways to add fresh impetus to trade and commercial relations. It was also agreed to reduce the number of items under SAFTA from each other’s negative list.
Both sides agreed for the setting up of more joint ventures in each other’s country and improvement of air links between Dhaka and Colombo and Chittagong. Steps would also be taken shortly to establish naval connectivity between Colombo, Hambantota, Dhaka, Chittagong and Mongla ports.
Furthermore, Bangladesh youth, nurses are to be trained in Sri Lanka on skills development, in addition to the existing youth exchange programmes. Both countries have expressed satisfaction over BIMSTEC Secretariat venue in Dhaka.
Bangladesh sought the support of Sri Lanka for the non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council for the 2016 -2017 period.