Bangladesh is eagerly awaiting a preferential trade agreement with Sri Lanka for a mutually beneficial and robust trade relationship between the two countries supported adequately by strong shipping connectivity, according to its envoy. With the trade volume between the two countries still quite low, Bangladeshi High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Tareq Md Ariful Islam feels some kind of facilitation was necessary to take bilateral trade to the next level.
“To take the trade to the next level, we need some kind of facilitation. Here, the free trade agreement or preferential trade arrangement comes into the picture. We are thinking about starting with a preferential trade agreement, to begin with. It will help us identify and explore our strong points and figure out how we can help each other,” Ariful Islam told Daily Mirror.
He welcomed the recent approval given by the Sri Lankan Cabinet to hold discussions for a preferential trade agreement and said it was an important step in taking forward the process.
Iterating that the two nations should further explore economic cooperation by laying priority on trade and investment, he said “If we have a mutually beneficial and robust trade relationship, supported adequately by strong shipping connectivity, that will have immediate and the most beneficial effect on the peoples of the two countries.
“These can touch people’s lives. That is almost tangible. That is how the full potential of bilateral relations can be realized”.
In Bangladesh recently extending a USD 250 million currency swap facility to Sri Lanka, the diplomat said it was a part of the overarching spirit of helping each other in times of need and referred to the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic that has created difficulties for countries across the globe.
Hoping that the ‘token gesture” would have a multiplier effect by spreading into other areas of cooperation, he said “In the first place this will enhance the relationship between the Central Banks of the two countries. From the Central Banks, the facility can open up opportunities to cooperate in the financial sector.
“This may instill greater confidence among the business communities to go for bigger business ventures and investments. Subsequently, this may also have an impact on the larger ambit of economic cooperation and a positive impact on trade, for example. It may have a positive impact on shipping.”
He called for a regional and evidence-based approach in pandemic management that can help devise innovative solutions applicable across South Asia.
‘It can lead to a new era of social alliance that can benefit the entire region. For example, our government has announced setting up an international vaccine institute with the support of our development partners,” he said.
Bangladesh voted in favor of Sri Lanka earlier this year at the United Nations Human Rights Council session that flagged concerns over the human rights situation in the island nation.
Ariful Islam felt Bangladesh has been very consistent in supporting Sri Lanka in its fight against separatist insurgency.
“We have also been supporting Sri Lanka for long on human rights issues. As a continuation of that, we have supported Sri Lanka at the UNHRC this year. That was done in the spirit of good neighborliness, and given our excellent bilateral relationship,” the high commissioner added.