After a gap of over six years, Pakistan and Sri Lanka on Monday started ministerial-level talks to enhance economic and commercial cooperation and explore options to lower tariffs and begin direct shipping services to promote trade between the South Asian nations.
Both sides discussed options for further trade liberalisation and promoting bilateral trade, during the first round of the 10th Joint Economic Commission meeting.
An 11-member delegation, led by Minister for Industries and Commerce of Sri Lanka Rishad Bathiudeen, is visiting Pakistan. The Pakistani side is led by Minister of State for Economic and Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar.
Currently, bilateral trade between the two countries stands at $338 million. Both sides reviewed possibilities of exchanging traders, business delegations and revisiting the current tariff structure. In order to boost trade, the possibility of starting a direct shipping service between the two nations will also be discussed.
Among other issues, tariff on beatle leaves, export of coconut oil and coconut, quota for Basmati rice by Sri Lanka and access for Pakistani mangoes were discussed.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka also negotiated details of the $200 million credit facility, offered by Pakistan during President Asif Zardari’s visit to Sri Lanka in November 2010.
In order to establish sugar and cement plants, grinding and packing plants in Sri Lanka, Pakistan will offer services and expertise of Heavy Mechanical Complex. Islamabad would offer expertise of the engineering company and State Engineering Corporation to the Sri Lankan government in a number of fields.
Through the Ministry of Science and Technology in Pakistan, participants also explored avenues to improve cooperation in space technology, robotics and micro-economics. Pakistan plans to seek Sri Lanka’s assistance in training nursing staff in cardiology, neurology and psychiatry.
The leader of the Joint Ministerial Commission was scheduled to hold a number of sideline meetings with the minister for industries, minister for commerce and trade and president of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
In the sideline meetings, bilateral economic and commercial relations in various fields will be discussed.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2011.
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