BD, Lankan businesses agree on greater trade cooperation

Dhaka,  Sat,  23 September 2017
Published : 15 Jul 2017, 22:56:24
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BD, Lankan businesses agree on greater trade cooperation

Hail FTA decision as booster to Look East Policy
FE Report

Businesspeople of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka agreed in Dhaka Saturday to foster greater tie-ups for expanding bilateral trade and investment under a revamped Look East Policy following latest business pacts.

Top leaders from the business front welcomed the move of the two governments for signing Free Trade Agreement (FTA), agreed upon during a three-day visit of Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to Dhaka.

The FTA, as per the agreement reached at summit-level talks, is to be instituted within this calendar year (2017).

The business-to-business talks took place at a 'Bangladesh and Sri Lanka investment and business dialogue: Moving towards greater economic partnership" at a city hotel.

Sri Lankan President Mr Sirisena attended the dialogue along with his Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, Principal Coordinator (SDG Affairs) Md. Abul Kalam Azad, President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of

Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Md. Shafiul Islam (Mohiuddin), President of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Ms Nihad Kabir, Managing Director of Apex Footwear Ltd. and ex-President of MCCI Syed Nasim Manzur, Chairman of Laugfs Holdings Ltd. of Sri Lanka WKH Wegapitiya, Group Director of Ceylon Biscuits Group, Sri Lanka, Rasith Wickramasingha and businessmen from different sectors from both the countries.

Executive Chairman of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Kazi M. Aminul Islam and Chairman of the Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE) Mr Kushan Kodituwakku presented keynotes on business and investments in the two countries.

During the three-day tour of the Lankan President, Dhaka and Colombo signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to finalise an FTA by 2017 and also signed 13 other MoUs and instruments with objectives of boosting the bilateral economic ties and business.

FBCCI President Mr Mohiuddin said: "Business volume between the two countries is still very low. It's about US$30-40 million. It's nothing. Now this is time to take off. We want to expand our business and investment with the island nation."

He added: I hope after the signing of FTA, the present tiny businesses and investments between the two SAARC nations will expand a lot, which will benefit both the countries as both have a huge market.

MCCI President Nihad Kabir said: "Bangladesh has the market and workforce. Now it's time to work together to expand bilateral investment and business."

Since Sri Lanka is at the next door to Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal, the two countries could work together for boosting tourism, fishing, maritime resource extraction and some other potential sectors, she told the cutting-edge business meet.

 "We have lot of talks with the Sri Lankan businesses. It is now time to prove the result," Ms Kabir said, welcoming the decision on striking FTA.

Ex-President of the MCCI Nasim Manzur said: "Consumption in the so- called developed world has been stagnant or falling. Now it is high time to expand cooperation with the East. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh can now get the benefit to boost that cooperation."

He said: "Bangladesh has proven its capacity in different sectors, especially in readymade garments, in the world. It has now more than 75 per cent mobile-phone penetration and some 25 per cent of farmers use the phone to get market information. Bangladesh has changed a lot. It has business potentials. So, Sri Lankan investors can invest here to reap the benefit."

Mr Manzur requested the government to simplify the visa regime for the Sri Lankans to help improve the ties between the two neighbours.

Sri Lankan foreign minister Mr Karunanayake said: "Today the economy is moving from west to east. Now it is the year of Asian nations. So, why we import from outside the region? We have SAARC, BIMSTEC. Let us have business between ourselves."

He assured Bangladeshi investors of approving investment proposals in Sri Lanka within 10 days.

The foreign minister said they consider Bangladesh a very important neighbour like its other surrounding next-door nations like Singapore, and Doha (Qatar).

Chairman of Laugfs Holdings Ltd. Mr Wegapitiya said both the countries have similar opportunities and scenarios. "For transforming the businesses from west to east, we can work together."

He expressed his satisfaction over the support of Bangladeshi authorities extend in expanding his business here.

The Laugfs Holdings Chairman said the upcoming FTA would help both the countries boost their business and investment a lot.

A Sri Lankan businessman who has invested in Bangladesh, Rashit Wickramasingha, said Bangladesh's market is rapidly growing in IT and food-processing fields.

He urged the Lankan businesses to come forward with their investments as Bangladesh is a good destination for finance capital. BIDA Executive Chairman Mr Islam requested the Lankan businessmen to attain "one-stop services" for their investment proposals as he branded Bangladesh as one of the best destinations for business.

In the previous financial year (FY) 2015-16, total foreign trade between Dhaka and Colombo amounted to only US$ 75.44 million wherein Sri Lanka is in a better position with its export volume of $45 million.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka issued a joint statement Saturday on the three-day visit of the Lankan President.

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