Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on Saturday agreed to deepen their cooperation in various sectors, especially exploring newer avenues in trade and commerce, as the bilateral trade of the two countries are far less than its potential.
The consensus came at the official bilateral talks between the Prime Ministers of the two countries held at the Prime Minister’s Office here where the two leaders led their respective sides.
PM’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.
He said the entire range of bilateral, regional and international issues were discussed at the official talks that lasted for nearly an hour.
Sheikh Hasina said the bilateral trade is far less than its potential and mentioned that the joint feasibility study for a free trade agreement has been done.
“Now we should go for the early conclusion of FTA,” she said emphasising the importance of facilitating greater private sector participation.
She mentioned that Bangladesh has many products which have high prospects in Sri Lankan market.
The Prime Minister said that Sri Lanka has investment in the power sector of Bangladesh. “We encourage Sri Lankan investors to invest more in our special economic zones, and industrial and high-tech parks.”
She said Bangladesh will encourage the Sri Lankan business community to increasingly utilise the opportunities of value addition in Bangladesh’s agriculture sector. Bangladesh will be happy to share its experiences in agriculture, particularly in rice farming and fresh water fisheries, Hasina added.
“We would like to obtain technical knowhow from Sri Lanka in coastal, aquaculture, marine culture, and deep-sea fishing,” she said.
About education sector, she said, “We should have more institutionalised cooperation in capacity building, vocational training, and skilled development.”
About the health sector, the Prime Minister put emphasis the need for more training of Bangladeshi nurses and other health professionals in Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka may benefit immensely by importing our world-class pharmaceutical products and medical devises in greater quantities,” she said adding that this would require the simplification of Sri Lankan registration procedures.
Hasina also said Sri Lanka can utilise Bangladesh’s high expertise in the field of ICT.
She said Bangladesh would be happy to share with Sri Lanka its long experience in emergency response, disaster management, climate adaptation and mitigation.
Ihsanul Karim said Sheikh Hasina In her concluding remarks described the meeting as fruitful and said the existing institutional mechanism should regularly meet to take forward the relationship. “Both sides should also take immediate action for due implementation and follow up on all bilateral instruments signed so far.”
Hasina said Bangladesh values its relationship with Sri Lanka and mentioned that the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka will be held next year.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksha mentioned the relations between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as close bond of friendship and invited Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit Sri Lanka next year to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
He praised Bangladesh’s digital transformation and its performance and said they would be happy to share Bangladesh experiences in agriculture, health and education issues for mutual benefits.
Laying emphasis on increased trade and its diversification, Rajapaksha sought more attention to tariff preference and said his country will invest more in the private sector business areas.
He sought measures to make easier of the repatriation of profits and praised the concept of blue economy of Bangladesh and said that Sri Lanka is ready to share its experiences in this regard.
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister said his country is keen to learn from Bangladesh about disaster management and appreciated Bangladesh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for handling the Covid-19 situation successfully.
Foreign Minister Dr A K Abdul Momen, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, Finance Minister AH M Mustafa Kamal, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen attended the meeting with the Prime Minister.
Sri Lankan Education Minister GL Peiris, State Minister of Rural Housing and Construction and Building Material Industries Ministry Indika Anuruddha, State Minister of Batik, Handloom Fabric and Local Apparel Products Ministry Dayasiri Jayasekera, State Minister for Money and Capital market and state enterprise reforms Ministry Ajith Nivard Cabraal, State Minister of Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya, Secretary to Prime Minister Gamini Sedara Senarath joined the meeting from the Sri Lankan side.