There was talk of intensifying bilateral relations, cooperation between the two navies and sending Sri Lankan navy personnel to study in Bangladesh. Recently, many Bangladeshi Navy ships have travelled to Sri Lanka for goodwill visits.  Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are working on a free trade agreement to be signed in 2018. According to many sources, this free trade agreement has been under way for some time and will also be Bangladesh`s first free trade agreement with each country. According to Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Mohmmad Shahidul Haque, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Maithripala Sirisena have decided to sign the agreement in 2017 and have called for negotiations and studies to be concluded in advance. He added: “It`s an amazing breakthrough. Bangladesh has never signed a free trade agreement. I think this is a great political advance in trade and investment between countries. Bangladesh had previously concluded 14 cooperation agreements in various areas during the Sri Lankan president`s visit to Dhaka. Negotiations for a free trade agreement with Bangladesh have been ongoing since 2013 and the signing of a free trade agreement would mean a positive conclusion to this debate. The free trade agreement should enable both countries to overcome existing tariff and non-tariff barriers and thus impede trade between the two countries. Earlier this year, Bangladeshi Trade Minister Tofail Ahmed drew attention to the use of the port of Colombo by the free trade agreement, which will save three days on local imports and exports.
He added: “We will be able to export pharmaceuticals, paper and cement to low import duties after the signing of the free trade agreement.” The Bangladesh-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group was established in 2013 to increase trade. The two countries agreed to sign a maritime agreement. Several Sri Lankan conglomerates such as LAUGFS Holdings have their footprint in Bangladesh.  In 2013, bilateral trade between the two countries exceeded the $100 million mark.    Between 2012 and 2016, bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh increased by 43% to $143 million, and in 2016 it increased by 11% over 2015, or USD 131 million. These are the figures that support a free trade agreement and, if the agreement were to be signed, it would likely be that those figures would receive a huge boost in the years to come. The government has concluded tough EU agreements in the 2001 Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement between the two parties, in which Dhaka has accepted EU more WTO demands, to allow, for example, the monopolistic rights of companies on seeds (patenting). The government was in controversial talks with the United States on a framework agreement on trade and investment, a prelude to a possible free trade agreement with Washington; 2010, after several years of discussions, was not signed. The United States then asked Bangladesh to sign an agreement on the Forum for Trade and Economic Cooperation, but it has not yet been signed; India has lobbied for a bilateral free trade agreement with Bangladesh, but the World Bank has made it clear that India will benefit more; Pakistan has also lobbied for a free trade agreement with Bangladesh; Bangladesh, for its part, is interested in developing a free trade agreement with China.
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