Bangladesh and Sri Lanka agreed to remove barriers to bilateral trade and explore the scope for further connectivity in the region, according to a joint statement issued simultaneously from Dhaka and Colombo on Tuesday.
The two countries agreed to boost bilateral trade that was ‘far below the potential and did not reflect the cordial political relations,’ said the statement issued on the visit of the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa to Bangladesh and the summit talks between him and the Bangladesh prime minister, Sheikh Hasina.
The 24-point joint statement was released in the presence of Sri Lanka’s external affairs minister GL Peiris and Bangladesh’s foreign minister Dipu Moni at a joint press conference at a city hotel.
The two countries agreed to undertake measures for trade facilitation, including identification and removal of non-tariff barriers, simplification and harmonisation of mutually recognised standards, the statement said.
Both the sides agreed to diversify the basket of tradable goods and looked for innovative ways to add fresh impetus to trade and commercial relations.
The two sides stressed the need for shortening each other’s negative list to increase the number of items under SAFTA regime.
They also stressed the need for reactivating institutional mechanisms, including holding meetings of the Bangladesh Sri Lanka Joint Economic Commission.
Bangladesh welcomed more Sri Lankan investments in sectors such as education, health, hospitality, textiles, apparel, leather, pharmaceuticals, steel and engineering, agro-based industries and information technology.
Sri Lanka, however, invited Bangladesh business communities to seek out new opportunities available following the end of internal conflict there.
The two sides directed their respective civil aviation authorities to start negotiations on liberalisation of air services regime between the two countries.
Sri Lanka agreed to a Bangladesh proposal for training nurses from Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka requested Bangladesh to consider resuming the feeder service for Chittagong and Mongla sea ports via Colombo. He also invited a team from Bangladesh to visit the newly developed Hambantota deep sea port and the upgraded facilities at the Colombo sea port.
Bangladesh agreed to explore the potential for the resumption of the feeder service.
The two sides also agreed to explore the potential for cooperation in the tourism, agriculture, fisheries and livestock sectors and encourage frequent visits of cultural and youth delegations.
Sri Lanka agreed to accord ‘due consideration’ to Bangladesh’s request for supporting its [Bangladesh’s] candidature for the non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council for the period of 2016–17.
Mahinda Rajapaksa requested Bangladesh to provide hair relics of Buddha presently enshrined in a Buddhist monastery in Chittagong for exposition in Sri Lanka. Hasina assured cooperation in arranging the exposition.
GL Peiris said at the press conference that the two countries needed to explore new opportunities. The two countries can start discussion for a free trade agreement, he said.
Many Sri Lankan business groups have suggested a free trade agreement with Bangladesh, he added.
Dipu Moni said that Bangladesh agreed to consider the Sri Lankan proposal for the resumption of the feeder service with Colombo as part of exploring the scopes for connectivity in the region. The two countries ‘are working for a shipping service agreement.’
Asked about Bangladesh’s position about a UN report on alleged war crimes by the current government in Sri Lanka, Dipu Moni said the issues should be resolved with the framework of Sri Lankan sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Rajapaksa arrived in Dhaka on a three-day state visit beginning on Monday. He is scheduled to leave Dhaka on Wednesday.
Courtesy of New Age