Bangladesh, Sri Lanka agree to deepen cooperation

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Bangladesh, Sri Lanka agree to deepen cooperation
Diplomatic Correspondent

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka yesterday agreed to intensify bilateral cooperation in the fields of trade and investment, tourism, connectivity and shipping, and work together in regional and multilateral sectors.

The agreement was reached at the first-ever Foreign Secretary Level Consultation between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at the state guesthouse Meghna.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes led Bangladesh delegation while his counterpart Chrysantha Romesh Jayasinghe led the Sri Lankan team.

To strengthen bilateral and diplomatic ties, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse will visit Bangladesh this year when the two countries will sign several deals on promotion of trade and investment, cultural and youth exchanges and other areas.

Addressing a press conference yesterday afternoon, Quayes said they had a comprehensive discussion, which identified new areas of cooperation, increase South-South cooperation, and special emphasis was given in private sector engagement.

Both the side, he said, discussed about the institutional arrangements for forming EO Forum, comprising chief bosses of important companies of the two countries, with an aim to enhance private sector collaboration.

Quayes said Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have already established direct air service between Dhaka and Colombo, which will help boost the two-way trade from the present insignificant volume of $36 million.

He said Bangladesh offered to export pharmaceuticals, jute and jute goods, ceramics and tea packaging. The meeting also discussed removal of non-tariff barriers and mutually acceptable laboratory test of export products.

The secretary said they discussed about the entire range of pharmaceutical products and their quality. The Bangladesh team informed the meeting the country exports pharmaceutical products to 74 countries. On jute, Bangladesh offered to meet the entire demand of jute and jute products of Sri Lanka.

He said Sri Lanka seeks access to higher education in Bangladesh. Presently some 500 students of Sri Lanka are studying in private medical colleges here. Bangladesh agreed to accommodate more students in different educational institutions.

Bangladesh also sought Sri Lankan expertise to train nurses.

Turning to migrant labour issues, the two countries extensively discussed a common stance regarding protection of the rights of migrant workers. A meeting of the fourth Colombo Process, a regional consultative forum, will be held in Dhaka in April to discuss how the rights and job security of the migrant workers could be protected in the best possible way in the worker recipient countries.

Eleven countries — Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh — are engaged in the Colombo process.

Replying to a query, Quayes said similar foreign secretary level consultations will be held in India, Myanmar and Norway this year. Indian Foreign Secretary will visit Bangladesh soon to attend the consultation.

He said he will visit Egypt to sign a memorandum of understanding regarding Protocol on Foreign Secretary Level Consultation and hold the first consultation there on February 1-2.

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