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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2708

Sri Lanka to participate in Bangladesh Single Country Trade Fair

Sunil C. Perera - Reporting from Colombo

Colombo, 07 June, ( Sri Lanka’s large scale, small and medium entrepreneurs are to attend forthcoming Bangladesh’s single country exhibition with the view to explore business opportunities in the country.

The Export Development Board [EDB] says it has already interviewed more than 40 entrepreneurs to select the trade mission.

According to Mrs.Ranjani Thudugala, Director of EDB, the exhibition would be held in early July this year .

The proposed trade fair would open doors to Sri Lankan businessmen to enter new markets, which have more opportunities said EDB spokeswoman.

A number of local companies are now engaged with the Bangladesh counterparts to run various types of businesses and industries.

"Most of them have very good concessions from the Government of Bangladesh, said an official of a trade chamber.

He said t he Bangladesh government continues to court foreign investment, something it has done fairly successfully in private power generation and gas exploration and production, as well as in other sectors such as cellular telephony, textiles, and pharmaceuticals.

In 1989, the same year it signed a bilateral investment treaty with the United States and it established a Board of Investment to simplify approval and start-up procedures for foreign investors, although in practice the board has done little to increase investment. Bangladesh also has established successful export processing zones in Chittagong and Dhaka, and has given the private sector permission to build and operate competing EPZs-initial construction on a Korean EPZ started in 1999.

In June 1999, the AFL-CIO petitioned the U.S. Government to deny Bangladesh access to U.S. markets under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), citing the country's failure to meet promises made in 1992 to allow freedom of association in EPZs.

According to the trade sources , Bangladesh has made significant strides in its economic sector since its independence in 1971. Bangladeshi garments industry is one of the largest and comprehensive industry in the world.

Before 1980, Bangladesh's economy and foreign exchange earnings were driven by the jute industry. However, this industry started to fall dramatically from 1990 , when polypropylene products gained popularity over the jute products. Current GDP per capita of Bangladesh registered a peak growth of 57% in the Seventies immediately after Independence. But this proved unsustainable and growth consequently scaled back to 29% in the Eighties and 24% in the Nineties.Bangladesh has also made major strides to meet the food needs of its increasing population, through increased domestic production.

Currently, Bangladesh is the third largest rice producing country in the world. The land is devoted mainly to rice and jute cultivation, although wheat production has increased in recent years; the country is largely self-sufficient in rice production.

Nonetheless, an estimated 10% to 15% of the population faces serious nutritional risk. Bangladesh's predominantly agricultural economy depends heavily on an erratic monsoonal cycle, with periodic flooding and drought. Although improving, infrastructure to support transportation, communications, and power supply is poorly developed. The country has large reserves of natural gas and limited reserves of coal and oil. While Bangladesh's industrial base is weak, unskilled labor is inexpensive and plentiful.

Fortunately for Bangladesh, many new jobs--1.5 million, mostly for women--have been created by the country's dynamic private ready-made garment industry, which grew at double-digit rates through most of the 1990s.

Despite the country's politically motivated general strikes, poor infrastructure, and weak financial system, Bangladeshi entrepreneurs have shown themselves adept at competing in the global garments marketplace. Bangladesh's exports to the U.S. surpassed $1.9 billion in 1999. Bangladesh also exports significant amounts of garments and knitwear to the EU market.

The country has done less well, however, in expanding its export base—garments account for more than three-fourths of all exports, dwarfing the country's historic cash crop, jute, along with leather, shrimp, pharmaceuticals and ceramics. Bangladesh has been a world leader in its efforts to end the use of child labor in garment factories. On July 4, 1995, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Export Association, International Labour Organization, and UNICEF signed a memorandum of understanding on the elimination of child labor in the garment sector. Implementation of this pioneering agreement began in fall 1995, and by the end of 1999, child labor in the garment trade virtually had been eliminated.

A government spokesman of Bangladesh stressed the need for direct shipping and air links between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to boost bilateral trade. "I do believe, if a direct air link is established between Dhaka and Colombo, bilateral trade and economic relations between the countries would be further promoted to a new height," he said.

To boost bilateral trade, the minister also stressed on opening trade centers, exchanging trade delegations, arranging single or bilateral trade fairs in the two countries and identifying products having trade potentials. He hoped that the new chamber would be greatly helpful for the country's agriculture and technology-based industries to give them a new dimension.

- Asian Tribune -

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