Trade pact with India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka likely: Dhaka

August 3rd, 2008 - 12:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Aug 3 (IANS) A closer economic integration of South Asia may be on the cards. Bangladesh is likely to decide Sunday on signing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Top government officials meeting here would decide on the basis of reports and research work done on relevant data pertaining to the three countries who are keen to ink such a pact in order to expand trade relations in the region, media reports said Sunday.

The crucial meeting is due at the ministry of commerce. Finance Adviser Mirza Azizul Islam, who performs ministerial functions in the present caretaker government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, will chair the meeting.

Signing FTAs has been a vexed issue for Bangladesh, as also other South Asian nations that have had prolonged bilateral talks.

The meeting here coincides with the 15th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) taking place in Colombo.

Trade negotiators say Dhaka may explore opportunities of higher trade though bilateral arrangement South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) is yet to ensure free flow of goods and services for the benefit of smaller economies such as Bangladesh.

Dhaka opened free trade negotiations with Colombo, Islamabad and New Delhi almost simultaneously in 2003 before the regional free trade deal, SAFTA, took shape in the Islamabad SAARC summit in 2004, New Age newspaper said Sunday.

Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI) has compiled a report on the possible risks for Bangladesh in signing such an agreement.

The government will review the opinions and research papers along with another research conducted by the World Bank, prior to taking the policy decision, ministry sources said.

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