Bangladesh eyes trade pacts with Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan after Doha collapse

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe (2nd R) arrives to visit the site of a bomb attack at St. Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade in Colombo on April 21, 2019. - A string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on April 21, killing at least 156 people, including 35 foreigners. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP / Getty Images)

DHAKA, 2008 (AFP) – Bangladesh is pursuing bilateral free trade deals with three neighbouring countries following the collapse of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks for a global agreement, an official said Monday.

If successful, the WTO’s so-called Doha round of talks would have reaped huge financial benefits for Bangladesh, giving the impoverished country a massive economic boost with zero tariffs on its exports.

A government spokesman told AFP the country had decided to pursue one-on-one deals after the collapse of last month’s global talks.

“Initially, the government has decided to start bilateral free trade talks with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” he said.

Sri Lanka and India had already signed a bilateral deal with each other and similar negotiations between other regional neighbours were also under way, he said.

Bangladesh is a member of the WTO and two regional trade treaties: the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral, Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

But analysts say the country — where more than 40 percent of the 144 million population lives below poverty line — has gained little from those multilateral t