Sri Lanka and Pakistan appeared upbeat on Tuesday, 6th on the recently concluded bilateral talks on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and related matters which closed on 18 August in Colombo. The secretarial level meeting on 17 and 18 August reviewed several bilateral trade aspects and also focused on the possibility of mutual tariff concession entitlements on selected items.
“The 17-18 August talks in Colombo were fruitful and I am satisfied of the outcome” said Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry & Commerce on Tuesday, 6 September. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing Makhdoom Muhammad Amin Fahim, Pakistani Senior Minister and Minister for Commerce who was making a courtesy call on Minister Bathiudeen. Amin Fahim was accompanied by Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Seema Illahi Baloch and Colombo’s Pakistani High Commission officials.
“Today Pakistan is Sri Lanka’s second largest trade partner in the South Asian region. The successful conclusion of the FTA review is a sign of increasing trade cooperation between the two countries in recent times” Minister Bathiudeen said. “Sri Lanka is now in the process of taking follow up action including post FTA review in the aftermath of successful wrap-up of the August meeting in Colombo. Almost all issues raised in the Joint Economic Commission meeting in Islamabad in July appear to have been ironed out during this meeting in Colombo” Minister Bathiudeen informed Pakistani Minister Muhammad Amin Fahim.
Sri Lanka was the first country that Pakistan signed and FTA with others. On 4 & 5 July, 2011, 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 representing their respective countries. Both Ministers agreed to hold the next meeting of JEC in Colombo in 2012. Upon detailed review of implementation status of decisions taken at the 9th Session of Pak-Sri Lanka Joint Economic Commission, both sides agreed that the implementation status of JEC is satisfactory to Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Sri Lanka-Pakistan bilateral trade has been on the increase lately from US $ 158 m in 2005 to US $ 342 m in 2010. While Sri Lanka’s exports to Pakistan have increased from US $ 43 m in 2005 to US $ 64 m in 2010, Sri Lanka’s imports from Pakistan has also increased from US $ 115.6 m in 2005 to US $ 281.7 m in 2010.
Minister Bathiudeen informed Pakistani Minister Amin Fahim that Sri Lanka’s economic upswing has opened doors for fresh investment opportunities for keen Pakistani investors.
One such avenue is pharmaceutical manufacturing. “Pakistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry informed me it was keen to send business delegations to Sri Lanka directly and I invite Pakistani investments for pharmaceutical manufacturing in Sri Lanka” Minister Bathiudeen said. “I also invite Pakistani business community to Sri Lanka’s mega event in 2012 called “Sri Lanka Expo 2012”, Minister Bathiudeen said.
Responding to Minister Bathiudeen, Pakistani Minister Amin Fahim said that Pakistan has always been keen for strong trade cooperation with Sri Lanka. “I also think Sri Lanka and Pakistan should initiate direct business community contact and start to exchange business delegations with each other” Amin Fahim said.
Seema Illahi Baloch, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, informed Minister Bathiudeen that Pakistan is keen to receive training from Sri Lanka on gem cutting and polishing.
“We welcome such training assistance from Sri Lanka” she revealed.
Also present during the 7 September session along with Minister Bathiudeen were Sri Lanka’s Deputy Directors of Commerce Sidat Kumar and Nimal Karunathilleke.