ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Sri Lanka have agreed to jack up their bilateral trade to $2 billion in the next three years, as President Asif Ali Zardari met his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday.
Currently, bilateral trade is valued at $375 million, and includes import of rubber and tea from Sri Lanka and export of cotton and cereal grains.
The Sri Lankan president, who is on a three-day official visit to Pakistan, held a one-on-one meeting with President Zardari followed by delegation-level talks at the Presidency, said an official statement.
According to the statement, Zardari called for stepping up efforts to fully realise the potential of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Colombo was among the first to enter into an FTA with Islamabad.
The president also suggested a currency swap agreement with Sri Lanka in order to provide incentives to business houses in both countries to actively explore and enhance business linkages using local currencies for trade.
Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the two heads of state also discussed matters regarding bilateral diplomatic relations, mutual cooperation with special reference to trade and commercial ties and regional and international issues. The president himself welcomed President Rajapaksa and members of the Sri Lankan delegation to the Presidency.
Zardari remarked that relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka have also been marked by a measure of consistency and commonality of views on important regional and global issues. “The two countries have stood together and supported each other in all important matters concerning our two countries,” he said.
The president urged the business community and the chambers of commerce of the two countries to fully avail the huge trade and business potential that the two countries offer in diverse fields, including the financial and banking sector, science and technology, defence, agriculture, tourism, gems and jewellery besides promoting cultural exchanges.
He proposed the establishment of a direct shipping service between the two countries, which he said would help enhance the level of bilateral trade.
The president appreciated the Sri Lankan government for the important contribution it had made in assisting Pakistan cope with the outbreak of dengue fever last year, which killed hundreds across the country. He proposed that Sri Lankan experts train Pakistani nurses to deal with such an epidemic should it break out in the future.
He also assured Pakistan’s continued cooperation to Sri Lanka in various fields, including defence and security.
Babar said that Rajapaksa thanked President Zardari and the Pakistan government for according him and his country’s delegation a warm welcome.
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