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Sri Lanka Bangladesh to cut negative list on SAFTA, shipping

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka and Bangladesh would look to reduce negative lists on a South Asia Free Trade deal, harmonize standards and move towards a free trade agreement, a joint statement said after a visit by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has and the Sri Lanka had agree to set up a Joint Consultative Commission for Comprehensive Cooperation to be headed by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries to regularly review relations and revive a Joint Economic Commission and working groups.

An memorandum of understanding on economic partnership had been signed between the countries and “two leaders reiterated their commitment for an early conclusion” of free trade agreement, the statement said.

Sri Lanka has been restricting trade for several years with heightened anti-free trade rhetoric and favoring controlled trade to give high profits to several large domestic business houses and other producers.

After printing money and triggering forex shortages, Sri Lanka now has some of the tightest import controls since the closed economy of the 1970s.

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka also agreed to identify and removal of non-tariff barriers, simplify and harmonize of mutually recognized standards.

“Both sides also agreed to diversify the basket of tradable goods and look for innovative ways to add fresh impetus to trade and commercial relations,” the statement said.

“In this context, both sides underscored the need to reduce further the number of items under SAFTA from each other’s negative lists. In this context, emphasis was given on implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) and the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) on Technical Cooperation at an early date.”

Sri Lanka also pledged to import more quality pharmaceuticals from Bangladesh and simplify the registration of Bangladeshi pharmaceutical products.

The countries would also work on improving shipping. Sri Lanka’s Colombo port is the main transshipment port in South Asia.

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“The two leaders underlined shipping as one of the key areas with potential for mutually beneficial cooperation which should result in improved connectivity and open up further opportunities for bilateral trade between the two countries and beyond,” the statement said.

:Observing that negotiations on the draft Coastal Shipping Agreement and the draft Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on the Feeder Services between Chattogram and Colombo are at an advanced stage, they agreed to conclude these early.

“They also instructed for holding the next meetings of the JWG (Joint Working Group_ on Shipping and Shipping Secretary level talks at an early date to iron out the pending issues. ” (Colombo/Mar22/2021)

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