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Trade with Lanka to be raised by over $2 bn in three years

IANS ISLAMABAD VISITING Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari have agreed to increase bilateral trade to over $2 billion over the next three years.

Pakistan is one of the largest trade partners of Sri Lanka, with their current trade standing at $375 million. The two countries have a free trade agreement, the Dawn reported.

Zardari told Rajapaksa there was a huge scope to boost cooperation by “building on shared values, enhancing connectivity, increasing the synergies of our economies and reinforcing the institutional framework for cooperation”.

Rajapaksa who began a three-day visit to Pakistan on Friday is accompanied by Foreign Minister G L Peiris, secretary to the president Lalith Weeratunga and media advisor Bandula Jayasekara.

Zardari suggested a number of measures for increasing trade, including a currency swap arrangement and establishment of direct shipping service between the two countries.

Both countries are also expected to sign an agreement during Rajapaksa’s visit under which Sri Lanka would get $200 million export credit facility through the State Bank of Pakistan.

Zardari urged the business communities of both countries to benefit from the potential in the financial and banking sectors, science and technology, defence, agriculture, tourism and gems.

Pakistan has been one of Sri Lanka’s major military hardware suppliers. Colombo is also considering a proposal from Islamabad for training of intelligence operatives and police officials.

Meanwhile, on Saturday only, both countries signed three memorandums of understanding (MoU) to promote cooperation in trade, technical education and media between the two countries.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa witnessed the signing ceremony here at the Prime Minister’s House along with the members of their delegations.

The first MoU was signed for cooperation in media by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Aishaq Awan on behalf of Pakistan while Minister for External Affairs Prof GL Peiris signed on Sri Lanaka’s behalf.

Advisor to PM on Finance and Economic Affairs Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh signed the second MoU while Sri Lankan Minister for External Affairs Prof GL Peiris signed the agreement on behalf of their respective government for credit of US dollars 200 million for improving Pakistan’s export from Sri Lanka.

The third MoU was signed by Secretary Ministry of Professional and Technical Education Qamar Zaman Chaudhry and Secretary to President of Sri Lanka Lalith Weerathunga on behalf of Sri Lankan government for enhancing cooperation in technical training in different fields.

The MoU was signed for the cooperation between National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTEC) of Pakistan and Tertiary And Vocational Education Commission of Sri Lanka.

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