By P.K. Balachandran
Bangladesh’s first-ever FTA will be with Sri Lanka and that is expected to signed by year end, Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Mohmmad Shahidul Haque told the media in Dhaka on Friday.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Maithripala Sirisena decided to sign the deal in 2017 and asked that negotiations and studies be completed beforehand,” he said after bilateral talks between the visiting Sri Lankan President and the Bangladesh Prime Minister.
“This is an amazing breakthrough. Because Bangladesh has never signed an FTA before. I believe this is a big political progress towards trade and investment between the countries,” he said.
Earlier, Bangladesh signed 14 deals with Sri Lanka for cooperation in various fields following bilateral talks with a delegation headed by President Sirisena, who was in Dhaka for a three-day state visit.
Dhaka has been negotiating the FTA with Colombo since 2013 to increase trade now worth $80 million every year, said Secretary Haque.
The deal can overcome the tariff and non-tariff obstructions to mutual trade, he said. “Bilateral trade relationships must be nurtured amid global changes in trade ties.”
“You’ll notice how many nations have been emphasizing on bilateral, trilateral or regional trade pacts. These act as supplements when the multilateral trade ties of a particular country fails to serve.”
Bangladesh has been discussing FTAs with some other countries, and inking one with Colombo will raise its capacity to strike a good deal, he said.
Fourteeen MoUs were signed today. These were on cooperation in coastal shipping, agriculture, higher education, foreign service training, central bank activities, investment, ICT, broadcasting, training on apparel and textile, and waiver of visas for holders of diplomatic and official passports.
The neighbours are preparing to sign a joint statement, said Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque.
“The joint statement with 35 paragraphs will be issued in the evening or tomorrow. This is the first time the relationship between the countries has been brought within a framework.”
The statement eliminates vagueness in ties, said Haque.
The deals address a political relationship besides a business one, he added. The Sri Lankan delegation of 73 members has been staying at Hotel Sonargaon.
1. MoU on cooperation in Agriculture
2. MoU between Ceylon Shipping Corporation and Bangladesh Shipping Corporation
3. MoU on cooperation and collaboration in the field of higher education between the University Grants Commissions of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka
4. MoU between Bangladesh Foreign Service Academy and Bandaranaike Diplomatic Training Institute in Sri Lanka
5. MoU between Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies and Lakshman Kadiragamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies
6. MoU between Central Bank of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh Bank for cooperation in financial sectors/services
7: MoU between Bangladesh Investment Development Authority and Board of Investment Sri Lanka for cooperation on investment matters
8. MoU on Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution and Sri Lanka Standards Institution
9. Agreement on visa waiver for diplomatic and official passport holders and Bangladesh and Sri Lanka
10. MoU on cooperation in the field of Information and Communication Technology
11. MoU on information and broadcasting between Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha and Sri Lankan National News Agency Lankapuvath Ltd.
12. MoU in the fields of radio, film and television
13. MoU on collaboration between Chittagong BGMEA Institute of Fashion and Technology and Sri Lanka Institute for Apparel and Textiles
14. MoU on economic cooperation between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka
Pays Homage To Sheikh Mujib
President Sirisena visited the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in Dhanmondi on Thursday. He was taken on a tour of the museum by Saima Wazed Hossein, daughter of Prime Minister Hasina and grand-daughter of the founder of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Sri Lanka is “proud to be a friend and partner in achieving Bangabandhu’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous region,” wrote Sirisena as he signed the visitors’ book of the museum dedicated to the nation’s father.
“On behalf of the government and people of Bangladesh, I pay tribute to the father of nation and great leader of the region whose sacrifice and vision continue to inspire his nation,” Sirisena wrote in the visitors’ book at Bangabandhu Museum.
The museum at Dhanmondi-32 is housed in the former residence of Bangabandhu, where he and most of his family members died in a military coup on Aug 15, 1975.
His daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, were outside the country when the family was massacred by a group isgruntled army officers.
Hasina’s daughter Saima Wazed Hossain gave President Sirisena a tour of the museum, accompanied by State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam.
President Sirisena placed flowers in front of Bangabandhu’s portrait, and observed a minute of silence.
“I am pleased to see that Bangabandhu’s vision for this nation is being realised by his daughter Sheikh Hasina,” he also wrote in the visitors’ book.
“May the souls of those martyred here rest in peace”.