A multi-party meeting on enhancing bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh was held at the Export Development Board (EDB) on 3 November, 2021, under the patronage of the Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena and High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Sri Lanka Tareq Md Ariful Islam with the participation of companies that export products to Bangladesh.
Representatives from several Government institutions attended the meeting and issues faced by the Sri Lankan exporters when exporting to Bangladesh were taken up for discussion with the Minister of Trade and the High Commissioner. About 30 companies representing tea, cosmetics & personal care products, textiles, electrical & electronic products, woven fabric & rubber products including tyres and chemical products have joined the meeting.
Speaking at the event, Minister Gunawardena said that currently his ministry with the Department of Commerce and other line agencies is working on the proposed Bangladesh – Sri Lanka Preferential Trade Agreement (BS-SL PTA) to promote bilateral trade for the benefit of the citizens of both countries.
Expressing his views, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh stressed the importance of developing trade, investment and logistic services including shipping and air transport between the two countries considering the close proximity and location advantage.
EDB Chairman Suresh D de Mel remarked that the meeting would provide a good platform for the Sri Lankan business community to share and discuss their views and concerns with the High Commissioner as well as the relevant Government authorities of Sri Lanka in order to meet the objective of increasing exports to Bangladesh.
Exporters who joined the meeting physically as well as via zoom platform pointed out the importance of the Bangladesh market for their products and investments. They direct their concerns when exporting to Bangladesh to Minister, the High Commissioner and the officials present at the meeting. Among those, the high rate of Customs Duty for Sri Lankan exports, visa matters and insufficient container ships and flights among the 2 countries were the main issues.
In response to the concerns raised by the exporters, the options available for obtaining visas to visit Bangladesh were explained. The proposed Bangladesh-Sri Lanka Preferential Trade Agreement will be the option for receiving duty concession for the issue of higher duties when exporting to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is a very important trading partner for Sri Lanka within the SAARC Region. The total trade between the two countries in 2020 was USD 200 Mn and Bangladesh was the 21st largest export destination for Sri Lanka in 2020 with a value of USD 153.44 Mn.
Key export products of Sri Lanka to Bangladesh are Electrical & Electronic Products, Woven Fabrics, Petroleum Oils, Petroleum Gases, Textile Articles, Products of Plastics, Nails, Screws, Bolts & Nuts of Metal and Paper & Paper Products.
Total imports from Bangladesh to Sri Lankan in 2020 was USD 47.89 Mn. This was an increase of 17.29% compared to the year 2019. Imports from Bangladesh include pharmaceutical Products, apparel, etc.