Talks to enhance bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh opened in Colombo last week. The first ministerial level talks to take place since the Dhaka round in 2012, focused on co-operation in  trade and industry and specifically air services, tourism, shipping and ITC.

“Today, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are enjoying extremely strong trade and economic, cultural, financial and political relations” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, inaugurating the event at Cinnamon Lake, Colombo.

Minister Bathiudeen is leading the Sri Lankan side at the fifth session of the Joint Economic Cooperation (JEC) while the Bangladeshi side is led by Minister of Commerce of Bangladesh Tofail Ahmed. The JEC talks in Colombo have been organized by the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka.

“Having regular forums of this nature would help both countries to build upon already existing deep-rooted long-standing relations” said Minister Bathiudeen. “In fact today, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are enjoying extremely strong trade and economic, cultural, financial and political relations and sharing common views on many regional and international issues which are of interest and concern to the two countries. As we know, both our nations are members of regional groups such as SAFTA, APTA and BIMSTEC.

Besides, we have a vast range of complementarities which can be harnessed and transformed into tangible and mutually beneficial business alliances to complement the endeavours of two nations on achieving a balanced and sustainable development.”

The total bilateral trade that was at US$ 48 million in 2010 has grown by more than two fold to US$ 131 million by 2015. Sri Lanka’s exports to Bangladesh too saw a steady increase in the past five years. In 2013 it recorded the highest increase of 45% (compared to 2012). A greater portion of Lankan exports to Bangladesh is represented by cotton (26.1%) followed by Man-made staple fibres (13.1%), plastic articles (12.1%) and knitted-crocheted fabrics (10.9%). Among Sri Lanka’s imports from Bangladesh are Pharmaceuticals (31%) followed by Rice (29.3%), Electric accumulators (6.3%) and apparel and garments (6%). In 2015 the import of pharmaceuticals surged by 61% over 2014.

The Joint Economic Commission (JEC) is one of the main apex instruments that enable the two nations to discuss and resolve economic and trade matters pertaining to their respective interests. Under the Sri Lanka – Bangladesh Joint Committee for Economic and Technical Cooperation, the two countries agreed to extend co-operation in the areas of trade, commerce and industries.

The fourth Session of the JEC and Technical Cooperation between Sri Lanka – Bangladesh was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in March 2012 at Ministerial Level.