ECONOMYNEXT – Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has called increased bilateral trade relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka through the optimal use of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, the Pakistan high commission in Colombo said.
Regular high-level exchanges must be made to strengthen bilateral relations, the high commission statement quoted Khan as saying.
The prime minister had made these remarks when ri Lanka’s Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardhana and State Minister for Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya paid him a courtesy call on Tuesday (25).
Khan had also referred to the “strong cultural bond” between the two nations and expressed his hope that more Sri Lankans would visit Pakistan for religious tourism, considering the “rich Buddhist Heritage” of the country, the statement said.
The two Sri Lankan officials are in Pakistan along with a business delegation from January 20 to 27. They had previously met Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
According to the statement, Sri Lanka’s “growing need for international aid in areas including ICT, pharmaceuticals, minerals, textiles, education, defence, tourism, human resource development through B2B contacts, joint ventures, investments in high potential sectors and technology transfers etc” have been discussed at the two meetings.
According to data from 2020, Sri Lanka generated more than five times the number of exports than imports to and from Pakistan via free trade agreements, the statement said.
In August 2021, Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers approved a proposal to import 6,000 metric tons of rice into the island to deal with a rice shortage created by a ban on inorganic fertilizer. Currently, Pakistan is also Sri Lanka’s primary importer of betel, the statement said.
According to the high commission’s official website, the two countries are also looking to strengthen ties in the education field, and in 2021 the Pakistan Higher Education Commission announced the ‘Allama Iqbal Scholarships’ under the Pak-Sri Lanka Higher Education Cooperation Programme, providing 1000 Sri Lankan students with the opportunity to visit Pakistan and pursue undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral degree programs in Engineering Science, Basic and Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences over the next five years.
The scholarship was provided to promote “an effective exchange of knowledge and a better understanding of cultures and tradition between Sri Lankan and Pakistani students,” a report on the website said.
Sri Lanka has already drawn up new agreements in several sectors including education, transport, healthcare and infrastructure in 2022, with countries like the UK, Hungary and India. The latest trade delegation, headed by Gunawardhana, was to strengthen ties between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the statement said, and will be returning to the island on Thursday (27). (Colombo/Jan26/2022)