Vol. 4 Num 158 Sun. November 02, 2003  
Front Page

Colombo offers to relax rules of origin for Dhaka
Bangladesh-Sri Lanka FTA talks kick off in city

Sri Lanka has agreed to consider Bangladesh as a least developed country and simplify the rules of origin for signing a free trade agreement (FTA) with it.

On the first day of the two-day FTA talks in Dhaka yesterday, both nations decided to sit again in Colombo in January and expressed their commitment to take the talks to a defining level.

"We will consider Bangladesh's status as an LDC in signing the FTA," Manel de Silva, joint secretary and director general of the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, told reporters after the opening day talks.

Elias Ahmed, leader of a six-member Bangladesh team and de Silva led their sides in the discussion.

As the current trade volume between the two South Asian nations is very small, Colombo has agreed to offer 'as simple as possible' rules of origin, meeting sources said.

"The spirit of the meeting was that both countries should be benefited from an FTA deal and it was reflected in our discussion," de Silva added.

Citing India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement, she said both countries were benefiting from the deal.

"Sri Lanka would like to utilise its experience in dealing the issue with Bangladesh," she added.

Referring to the lower trade volume, de Silva said the FTA would 'definitely help increase trade' between the two countries.

She said some investors from Sri Lanka were already in Bangladesh in financial and some other sectors.

"And, no doubt, more entrepreneurs will come to invest here if an FTA is signed."

Elias Ahmed said the FTA discussion was very positive and Bangladesh was willing to take the deal forward.

Dhaka did not ask Colombo for special and differential treatment of its products, but the issue figured in the talks, Ahmed said, emerging from the meeting at the commerce ministry.

Dhaka will prepare a negative list before finalising the agreement and Colombo has agreed to accept the list, meeting sources said.

Bangladesh exported goods worth $3.75 million in the fiscal 2002-03 while its imports to Sri Lanka totaled $8 million, according to the Export Promotion Bureau.