FTA with Sri Lanka this yr
MoUs signed on
Cooperation in agriculture, shipping, education, research, information and communication technology, information & broadcasting, radio, film & television, foreign service academy, financial services, investment and economic cooperation.
Visa waiver for diplomatic and official passport holders of the two countries.
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka yesterday agreed to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by this year, aiming to further strengthen and institutionalise bilateral trade cooperation between the two nations.
The decision to sign the FTA was finalised during the official bilateral talks between visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Prime Minister's Office.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said the FTA with Sri Lanka would be Bangladesh's first such deal with any country and a necessary study would be done prior to signing of the agreement.
He said the meeting marked the beginning of a new journey in Dhaka-Colombo relations as the Sri Lankan president termed his visit to Bangladesh a historic one.
The two leaders asked the officials concerned to complete all necessary steps promptly regarding the FTA.
The foreign secretary said if the FTA is inked, it would help Bangladesh enter such deals with other countries. There were some FTAs in the pipeline, he added.
Following the official talks, the two countries signed 14 instruments -- one agreement and 13 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) -- to strengthen cooperation in the areas of economy, agriculture, shipping, higher education, information technology and media.
Sirisena and Hasina witnessed the signing of the instruments at the PMO.
The lone agreement on visa waiver for diplomatic and official passport holders of the two countries was signed by Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake.
Foreign Secretary Shahidul said seven instruments were on trade and investment which means that the two sides focused on boosting trade relations.
About the MoU on cooperation in agriculture, he said Sri Lanka wants to develop its agriculture sector taking lessons from Bangladesh's tremendous success.
Regarding the cooperation on higher education, the foreign secretary said a large number of Sri Lankan medical students were studying in Bangladesh and the MoU was signed to further enhance cooperation in the sector.
The agreement on visa waiver was signed aiming to make official level consultations more effective, he added.
In FY 2015-16, Bangladesh's export to Sri Lanka totaled $30.45m while the import stood at $45.01m. In the previous fiscal, the figures stood at $23.92m and $43.54m, according to Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Bangladesh's major export items to Sri Lanka are woven garments, knitwear, home textile, agro products, frozen food, leather & leather products, footwear, raw jute, jute goods and bicycle.
The country's major import items include live animals, animal products, vegetable products, animal or vegetable fats and oils, prepared foodstuffs, mineral products, products of the chemical or allied industries, plastics and rubber articles, raw hides and skins, leather, pulp of wood products and textiles.
SIRISENA MEETS PRESIDENT
The visiting Sri Lankan president met President Abdul Hamid at the Bangabhaban in the evening.
During the meeting, Hamid stressed the need for utilising the huge potential of bilateral trade and investment for mutual benefits.
“Both the countries will be benefited if we can explore the trade and investment potentials of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka taking joint initiatives,” the president told his Sri Lankan counterpart.
Welcoming Sirisena and his entourage to Bangladesh, Hamid said Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have longstanding relations and hoped that the two countries would continue their close cooperation for strengthening the socioeconomic development and emancipation of the South Asian people.
Sirisena said Sri Lanka always considers Bangladesh as a tested friend. He hoped that the development and progress of Bangladesh would accelerate in future.
Later, President Hamid hosted a cultural function followed by dinner at the Darbar Hall in honour of the Sri Lankan president.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Chief Justice SK Sinha and opposition leader Raushan Ershad, among others, attended the dinner.
Earlier in the day, the opposition leader and the Speaker called on the Sri Lankan president at a city hotel.
Sirisena is scheduled to leave Dhaka today wrapping up his three-day visit.
The 13 MoUs are on cooperation in agriculture, MoU between Ceylon Shipping Corporation and Bangladesh Shipping Corporation, MoU between Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies and Lakshman Kadiragama Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies on cooperation in the field of international and strategic studies, MoU between the university grant commissions of the two countries on cooperation and collaboration in the field of higher education, MoU between Bangladesh Foreign Service Academy and Bandaranaike Diplomatic Training Institute, MoU between Central Bank of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh Bank for cooperation in financial sector/services, MoU between Bangladesh Investment Development Authority and Board of Investment of Sri Lanka for cooperation on investment matters, MoU between Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution and Sri Lanka Standards Institution, MoU on cooperation in the fields of Information and Communication Technology, MoU on Information and Broadcasting between Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha and Sri Lankan national news agency Lankapuvath Ltd, MoU on cooperation in the fields of radio, film and television between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, MoU on collaboration between Chittagong BGMEA Institute of Fashion and Technology nd Sri Lanka Institute for Apparel and Textiles and MoU on Economic Cooperation between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake, State Minister of Agriculture Wasantha Aluwihare, Deputy Minister of Ports and Shipping Affairs Nishantha Muthuhettigama, State Minister of Higher Education and Highways Mohan Lal Grero, Deputy Minister of Finance and Mass Media Lasantha Alagiyawanna and Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Bangladesh Yasoja Gunasekera signed the documents on behalf of Sri Lanka.
Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak, UGC Chairman Prof Abdul Mannan, Executive Chairman of BIDA Kazi Aminul Islam and BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman inked the instruments for Bangladesh side.