* Sri Lanka, Pakistan to expand bilateral trade to US$2 billion

Feb 10, Islamabad: Sri Lanka and Pakistan aim to expand the bilateral trade between the two countries to reach US$ 2 billion from the current US$ 375 million in the next three years.

During discussions held Friday with the visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari has called to step up efforts to fully realize the potential of Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka and build a mutually beneficial economic and trade partnership to reach the ambitious target of US$ 2 billion.

Pakistan President and the Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani warmly welcomed the Sri Lankan President with a military honor guard at President Zardari’s official residence Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad.

Sri Lankan President held a one-to-one meeting with his Pakistani counterpart as well as a delegation level meeting.

President Zardari, during the meeting has urged to further explore the currency swap agreement with Sri Lanka that would benefit huge incentives for the businesses in both countries by allowing to conduct trade in their local currencies.

He has called upon the business community and Chambers of Commerce of the two countries to fully utilize the huge trade and business potential the two countries offer in diverse fields including finance and banking sector, science and technology, defence, agriculture, tourism, gems and Jewelry while promoting cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Pakistani President has also proposed the establishment of a direct shipping service between the two countries to enhance the level of bilateral trade, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Zardari has assured Pakistan’s continued cooperation to Sri Lanka in various fields including defence and security.

Thanking the his Pakistani counterpart and his government, Sri Lankan President has said that Sri Lanka values its strategic and special relations with Pakistan greatly and “desires to further strengthen bilateral trade and commercial ties based on mutual respect, shared civilizational heritage and shared perceptions on a host of issues.”

President Rajapaksa has appreciated Pakistan’s support and cooperation in eliminating terrorism in Sri Lanka and added that the relations between the two countries have matured and diversified with time.

The Sri Lankan delegation led by President Rajapaksa included Minister of External Affairs Prof G.L Peiris, deputy minister Duminda Dissanayake MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena, Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary Ministry of External Affairs Karunatilaka Amunugama and Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody.

Pakistan President was assisted by among others the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, Federal Minister for Interior Senator A. Rehman Malik, Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Secretary General to the President M. Salman Faruqui, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Pakistan Ambassador to Sri Lanka Ms. Seema Ilahi Baloch.

(Photos by Sudath Silva)

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