The first meeting of the Bangladesh-Pakistan Joint Business Council likely to kick-off in Dhaka next week would give priority to issues relating to the signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, sources said.
"Signing of a free trade deal would top the agenda of the meeting to be held on August 27. Both the governments concerned have agreed to ink the deal by September", Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President Mir Nasir Hossain told the BDNEWS.
Earlier, during the Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's visit to Pakistan in February this year, the governments of the two countries had agreed to have a bilateral FTA before September 30 this year.
The FBCCI president said the council would discuss about the selection of commodities that would come under the trade pact. "We would also talk about elimination of the existing non-tariff barriers (NTBs) between the two countries", he said.
Referring to raising of trade target to US$ 1.0 billion between the two countries, Hossain said the trade between the two countries was being hampered due to absence of direct shipping line between Chittagong and Karachi.
Now a lone ship goes to Karachi from Chittagong via Singapore, he said.
The exporters almost failed to cash the benefit of duty free access for jute products to Pakistan due to this difficulty, he added.
The exchange of trade delegations between specific sectors, industrial cooperation and identification of potential sectors for establishing joint ventures would also come up for discussion, sources said.
Proposal for the formation of a Pakistan-Bangladesh dispute settlement committee to resolve commercial disputes may be discussed in the meeting, sources added.
Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Chaudhury Muhammad Saeed would lead the delegation from Pakistan.
Minister for Foreign Affairs M Morshed Khan and Pakistan High Commissioner in Bangladesh Alamgir Bashar Khan are expected to be present at the inaugural session of the first meeting.
Currently, Bangladesh exports raw jute and jute products, chemical fertiliser, tea, cut flower and foliage, tobacco, pharmaceuticals to Pakistan and imports textile and textile articles, machinery and mechanical appliances etc from Pakistan.
According to the FBCCI, Pakistan enjoyed $62.11 million trade surplus during the July-March period of the previous fiscal that ended on June 30 last.