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Sri Lanka-Pakistan FTA review talks begin in Colombo

Aug 17, 2011 3:30:50 PM - www.ft.lk

Talks between Sri Lanka and Pakistan on aspects of the bilateral FTA began in Colombo last morning.
The Secretarial Level Meeting scheduled to be concluded on 18 August will review several bilateral trade aspects and also focus on the possibility of mutual tariff concession entitlements on selected items.

“I like to observe that Sri Lanka and Pakistan have progressed well in the field of commerce. Trade between the two countries has gained a fresh impetus in the aftermath of the Heads of State level meeting of November 2010. Today Pakistan is Sri Lanka’s second largest trade partner in the South Asian region. The excellent relationship enjoyed by both sides at political and technical levels could be instrumental in this session becoming successful,” said Tilak Collure, Secretary to Ministry of Industry and Commerce, commencing the fourth Technical Level Meeting between Pakistan and Sri Lanka on PSFTA negotiations.
In response, Pakistani Ministry of Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood said: “Sri Lanka was the first country with which Pakistan signed an FTA. At the recent India-Pakistan bilateral Commerce Secretary level meeting, it was decided to normalise the trade relations between us and India, which I believe as a positive trend. We need to enlarge to scope of Lanka-Pakistan FTA through meetings such as this. We would like to make this a continuous and an uninterruptible process. We can now further build on the existing high level relations and current deliberations will help us to delve deeper into the bilateral relations.”
Mahmood added: “I visited Sri Lanka no less than three times and all these trips were very pleasant and productive. I know for certain that the outcome of these talks too will be very positive.”
The decision to hold this meeting was officially reached by both Sri Lanka and Pakistan jointly at the Ministerial Level (trade) session between both countries from 4-5 July 2011 in Islamabad as the two South Asian countries met to revive the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Joint Economic Commission. 
Previously, during the State visit of President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari from 27-30 November 2010, President Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed to hold the 10th session of JEC in the first quarter of 2011 to be co-chaired at ministerial level.
On 4 and 5 July, Pakistani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Finance and Economic Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar and Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen led the bilateral sessions. Both Ministers agreed to hold the next JEC meeting in Colombo in 2012.
Upon detailed review of implementation status of decisions taken at the ninth session of the Pak-Sri Lanka Joint Economic Commission, both countries agreed that the implementation status of JEC was satisfactory to Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
During the July sessions in Islamabad, the Sri Lankan delegation was also looking to reduce tariff imposed by Pakistan on Sri Lankan agro products, coconut based products and betel leaves in Pakistan. The Sri Lankan delegation also focused on the US$ 200 million Pakistani credit line extended to Sri Lanka in November 2010.

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