Colombo, July 4 (newsin.asia): Economic cooperation and promotion of trade and investment, will dominate talks between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena during the latter’s visit to Bangladesh from July 13 to 16, the Bangladesh High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, M.Riaz Hamidullah has said.
He told Daily Mirror on Tuesday that since Sri Lanka is a small country with a population of only 20 million, expansion of businesses here is difficult. Therefore, Sri Lankan businessmen and entrepreneurs should look to investing in a bigger country like Bangladesh. Bangladesh, he pointed out, has a population of 160 million, out of whom, 30 to 40 million belong to the middle and affluent classes whose consumer needs can be catered to.
Furthermore, Bangladesh is part of a huge landmass with India on two sides and Mynamar in the East ,he pointed out. Products made in Bangladesh could be sold in India and Myanmar as well.
Hamidullah said that an increasing number of Sri Lankan businessmen and entrepreneurs are exploring possibilities of investing in Bangladesh where labor is cheaper than in Sri Lanka and where skilled labor is also available. Some entrepreneurs who had initially invested in the apparel sector, are now looking at the pharmaceutical sector and want to export to Sri Lanka.
Bangladesh’s pharmaceutical sector has a good reputation in Sri Lanka but despite efforts to promote sales here, they have not entered the Lankan market in a significant way. High Commissioner Hamidullah said that this would be taken at the high level talks in Dhaka during the Lankan President’s visit. Sri Lankan duties are high and these may have to be brought down.
Hamidullah said that Sri Lankans find the investment climate and the market in Bangladesh to be good. It is a Sri Lankan company which meets 30% of the cooking gas needs in Bangladesh. A Sri Lanka hair oil brand is hugely popular in Bangladesh.
However, bilateral trade is only of the order of US$ 100 to 110 million. This needs to be improved. Sri Lanka could buy Bangladeshi saris and pharmaceuticals, he proposed.
There would be cooperation in shipping and agreements between ports of the two countries, Hamidullah said.
Foreign Secretaries Met
On July 3, ahead of President Sirisena’s visit, the Third Foreign Office Consultation between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, co-chaired by the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries was held in Dhaka.
The discussions also focused on possible trade and shipping opportunities in the Bay of Bengal and cooperation in the fields of Higher Education, Human Resources Developments, Health, Finance and Agriculture.
Legal instruments in the fields of Shipping, Investment, Agriculture, Finance, Trade, Human Resources Development and ICT were also discussed at the consultative meeting.
The Bangladesh delegation was led by Mr. Md. Shahibul Haque, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh and the Sri Lankan delegation was led by Esala Weerakoon.
Officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Higher Education & Highways, Department of Commerce and Sri Lanka Ports Authority also participated.
(The image at the top is that of the Bangladeshi High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, M.Riaz Hamidullah)