KARACHI: Pakistan and Sri Lanka will review and fine-tune the Pakistan Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (PSFTA) during the maiden visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to Colombo this week, the Pakistani commerce advisor has said.
PM Khan will be in Sri Lanka on February 23 and 24 and hold bilateral talks covering trade and investment, health and education, agriculture and science and technology, defense and security, and culture and tourism. Key regional and international issues will also be discussed, the Pakistani foreign ministry has said.
The Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement came into force in 2005, but it has not significantly increased bilateral trade between the two countries.
“I want to have the FTA reviewed so that we could further improve the trade and investment with Sri Lanka,” Abdul Razak Dawood, adviser to the PM for commerce, told Arab News. “At the moment there is no problem with the existing FTA; it is going very smoothly, but we will further review as to how to improve it and add new products.”
The PM’s aide said a delegation of around 40 Pakistani businessmen was accompanying the prime minister to Colombo and a number of agreements at the private level would be signed.
An official at Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry on Monday said Pakistan and Sri Lanka would sign at least seven memorandums of understanding during Khan’s two-day visit.
Mian Nasser Hyatt Maggo, president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), who is also the part of the business delegation, said issues pertaining to trade barriers would be discussed during meetings in Colombo.
“Will be holding meetings with Sri Lankan businessmen related to goods exported,” Maggo said. “There are non-tariff barriers for export of cement and rice … we will look into how to address this and also explore ways to enhance bilateral trade. … Apart from trade enhancement, the discussions will be focused on how to connect Sri Lanka with CPEC [China-Pakistan Economic Corridor].”
Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka has been skewed in favour of Islamabad since 1995. In 2019, Sri Lanka’s exports to Pakistan stood at $81.53 million as compared to imports from Pakistan which stood at $369.78 million, according to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka.
“Despite FTA that was started in 2002 and enforced in 2005,trade between both countries has not significantly increased,” Shirley Jayawardane, president of Sri Lanka's Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News over the phone on Tuesday. “We should focus on ways to enhance bilateral trade and also explore new ways of bilateral trade - it could be product range and value added products.”
Jayawardane, who is scheduled to meet with her Pakistani counterparts in Colombo on Wednesday, said areas of mutual interest including trade and truism would be discussed and MoUs signed.