Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

Bangladesh ex­pects to sign a Free Trade Agree­ment (FTA) with Sri Lanka dur­ing the ten­ure of the in­cum­bent govern­ment now that both coun­tries had com­pleted the fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies, Bangladeshi Com­merce Min­is­ter To­fail Ahmed said on Thurs­day.

Ac­cord­ing to The Daily Star, he had said this af­ter a meet­ing with Min­is­ter Ma­lik Sa­ma­rawick­rama in Dhaka. “We agreed to fi­nalise the joint fea­si­bil­ity study that was con­ducted by both coun­tries with a view to sign­ing the FTA,” Ahmed said. “We hope to sign the FTA dur­ing the ten­ure of the cur­rent govern­ment.”

“The na­tional elec­tion in Bangladesh may take place in late De­cem­ber or early Jan­uary. The na­ture of the agree­ment will be a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent as it will cover not only the du­ties but also the ser­vices sec­tor and in­vest­ment,” Mr. Ahmed said.

Min­is­ter Sa­ma­rawick­rama has said the joint fea­si­bil­ity study would be com­pleted by the end of this Oc­to­ber.

Mean­while, Bangladesh Gar­ment Man­u­fac­tur­ers and Ex­porters As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Sid­diqur Rah­man said a joint work­ing com­mit­tee would be formed en­gag­ing gar­ment ex­porters of both coun­tries to pro­duce value-added ap­parel items for ex­ports to Euro­pean mar­kets.

He said the for­ma­tion of the com­mit­tee was still at the very ini­tial stage. When it comes to pro­duc­ing some gar­ment items, Bangladesh is still very weak but Sri Lanka is strong, he said.

In those cases, Bangladesh’s man­u­fac­tur­ers will pro­duce the basic gar­ments and send them to Sri Lankan gar­ment fac­to­ries for more value ad­di­tion un­der the “Made in Bangladesh” tag, said Rah­man.

“More­over, Sri Lanka is in an advantageous po­si­tion be­cause of its sea ports, which are closer to Euro­pean mar­kets than Bangladesh’s Chit­tagong port,” he said, adding that Bangladesh would also use the Sri Lankan ports to its ben­e­fit.

The BGMEA leader said Sri Lanka is at least two weeks ahead in lead time com­pared to Bangladesh thanks to its ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion.

A shorter lead time is very im­por­tant in fast fash­ion as buy­ers al­ways want quick ship­ment of goods, he added.

Rah­man said a del­e­ga­tion from the BGMEA would hold a meet­ing with Sri Lankan govern­ment of­fi­cials and gar­ment traders next month.

Min­is­ter Ahmed said four di­rect flights be­tween Dhaka and Colombo could be in­tro­duced by com­ing April to im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the two coun­tries.

Last fis­cal year, Bangladesh ex­ported goods worth $30.02 mil­lion to

Sri Lanka while im­port­ing goods worth $47.80 mil­lion.

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