Bangladesh – Sri Lanka Trade Crosses $100m For First Time

As bilateral trade crossed the critical $100million mark for the first time, a confident Bangladesh called  for a formal investment protection mechanism to drive trade volumes to next levels.

“As a result of an investment protection agreement, fundamentals of investments would be right for Bangladeshi investors looking at Sri Lanka and this would drive our bilateral trade forward as well,” said a keen  Mohammad Sufiur Rahman, High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Sri Lanka on Friday.

High Commissioner  Rahman was addressing Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce at the Export Development Board Colombo.

High Commissioner Rahman was making his farewell courtesy call on Minister Bathiudeen. Also present on the occasion were officials from the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka and officials of the High Commission of Bangladesh in Colombo.

Some 15,000 Sri Lankans are currently employed in Bangladesh and 45 Lankan firms have invested $292 million in the country in various ventures while Bangladesh investments in Sri Lanka (both BoI & non-BoI) is around $3 million (in 6 projects). Restrictions on capital and current investment outflows by Bangladesh, is seen as one of the limiting factors contributing to the non-achievement of full potential of investment development and protection capacity for both countries.

“When I was in Dhaka recently, I informed the Bangladeshi investors, such as, pharma manufacturers to look not only at trade with Sri Lanka but also the positive investment climate here; invest in Sri Lanka and create market share right here so that you don’t have to compete with other regional suppliers to Sri Lanka,” said High Commissioner  Rahman.

He added: “For this, we need to have investment related agreements such as an Investment Protection Agreement. We are now working with Sri Lanka for an Investment Protection Agreement-the draft is being worked out jointly and there are some other elements need to be incorporated before its finalised any time now. For instance there is huge potential for Bangladeshi pharma sector here and their investments in Sri Lanka will also benefit the Lankan consumer. As a result of such an investment protection agreement, fundamentals of investments would be right for Bangladeshi investors looking at Sri Lanka. And this would drive forward our bilateral trade as well. I must also thank you for accepting our invitation to take part in a trade meeting in Dhaka later this year.”

Responding,  Minister Bathiudeen said: “On the investment side too there are potentials and I have no doubts that your work to make the Investment Protection Agreement a reality, is a great step in this regard. Again, I and all Sri Lankans convey our best wishes for your new posting in the region. Please also convey our investment call to Bangladeshi manufacturers-we invite them for our exports manufacturing with a value addition focus-in the sub sectors of rubber, PVC products, cement, minerals, metal, transport equipment, gem and jewellery, electrical and electronics, ceramic, paper, leather, chemicals, pharmaceutical, boats, food, tea, wood and coir.”

Total trade volumes between the two countries at $83.19 million in 2012, significantly rose by 67% to $ 139.23 million in 2013, crossing $ 100million mark for the first time. Sri Lanka’s main exports to Bangladesh in 2013 were cotton, knitted or crocheted fabrics, enzymes, narrow woven fabrics, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, life jackets, and gloves. According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh is the 40th supplier to Sri Lanka. According to the EDB, Bangladesh ranked at 25th in the direction of exports of Sri Lanka in 2013.  In 2012, Bangladesh ranked as the ninth largest trade partner of Sri Lanka within the Commonwealth.