COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Business groups in Sri Lanka and Pakistan are concerned about the contraction in bilateral trade despite a free trade agreement between the two countries.
The issue was discussed during talks with the newly arrived Pakistani High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Syed Shakeel Hussain by members of the Sri Lanka – Pakistan Business Council at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
A statement said Hussain had expressed his deep concern over the slide in trade between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in recent times.
Trade between Sri Lanka and Pakistan fell by almost 100 million US dollars to 350 million dollars in 2014 from a year ago, with the balance in favor of Pakistan.
Rohitha Thilakaratne, President of the Sri Lanka – Pakistan Business Council, said that the existing potential between the two countries was not being tapped.
“Unfortunately, the trade agreement between Sri Lanka and Pakistan is not giving the desired results,” he said.
“Instead of going upward, we are looking at a downward trend. I think that is something that both countries will have to focus immediately and resolve,” Thilakaratne was quoted as saying in the statement.
Numerous violations of the FTA, even without consulting the bilateral partner, have resulted in Sri Lankan exports to Pakistan dropping, he said.
Sri Lankan exporters to Pakistan also face long delays in resolving FTA issues, he added.
Thilakaratne suggested that apart from commodity and goods trading, both countries also should focus on investments and setting up joint ventures in the areas of pharmaceuticals, leisure, construction material, sugar and niche sports goods.
Hussain said he would look into concerns about extending the visa period of regular business people and high import duty related issues.