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Bangladesh – Sri Lanka Preferential Trade Agreement: Gains and policy challenges

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By Asanka Wijesinghe and Chathurrdhika Yogarajah

0espite enhanced trade partnerships in South Asia, intra-regional trade is far from reaching its theoretical potential. Similar production patterns and competitive sectors can be the causes. However, bilateral discussions to further lower trade costs continue. The ongoing Bangladesh-Sri Lanka discussions on a preferential trade agreement (PTA) will benefit from knowing the potential gains from reducing bilateral trade costs. In addition, knowledge of products with higher potential for export gains will help optimise the economic benefits from a trade deal.

Bangladesh – Sri Lanka Trade:
The Current Status

In 2018, when discussions on a PTA began to firm up, Sri Lanka’s exports to Bangladesh were USD 133 million, while imports from Bangladesh were USD 37 million. Despite the low trade volume, Sri Lanka’s exports to Bangladesh have grown (Figure 1). In addition, Sri Lanka records a bilateral trade surplus with Bangladesh, which is encouraging given the country’s trade deficit concerns. However, weak growth of exports from Bangladesh to Sri Lanka can be seen from 2001 to 2016 (Figure 1).

The current trade deals between the two countries are still partially restrictive. Both countries keep a sensitive list of products that are not eligible for tariff cuts. Sri Lanka maintains a list of 925 products sanctioned by SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) while Bangladesh keeps 993 products. Sri Lanka’s sensitive list covers USD 6.2 million or 23.8% of imports from Bangladesh. The sensitive list of Bangladesh covers USD 77.6 million or 62% of imports from Sri Lanka. Thus, the elimination of sensitive lists may benefit Sri Lanka more.

Figure 1: Trade Intensity between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

Source: Authors’ Illustration using Trademap Data.

Theoretically, bilateral alliances deepen trade by removing weaknesses in existing multilateral trade arrangements. A trade deal between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka can simplify trade regulations further. In addition, Bangladesh needs alternative preferential access as graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status will take away preferential access to its key markets. For Sri Lanka, increasing bilateral participation in production value chains, especially in the textiles sector, might be an economic motivation. Financial support extended by Bangladesh to manage Sri Lanka’s foreign currency pressures might be a political motivation for a trade deal.

Eliminating sensitive lists can lead to trade creation, although it may not happen due to political and economic reasons. When it comes to tariff cuts, both countries will act defensively as certain products in the sensitive lists are vital for employment and revenue generation. Thus, the success of a trade deal depends on how many products with high export potential are under its purview. In this direction, a group of products with specific characteristics can be identified as an offensive list. For example, Sri Lanka’s offensive list includes products that Bangladesh imports from anywhere in the world, produced by Sri Lanka with a capacity for expansion. Sri Lanka has a comparative advantage in exporting that good, and Bangladesh already has a tariff on the product.

Export Gains from Tariff Elimination

If tariffs on the sensitive lists are eliminated, there will be modest export gains for Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in absolute terms. Sri Lanka will gain USD 24.7 to 49.7 million of exports to Bangladesh, while Bangladesh will gain USD 2.1 to 4.5 million of exports to Sri Lanka. Potential export gains are given in a range due to assumptions on elasticity values used in the partial equilibrium model. Elimination of sensitive lists will generate a higher tariff revenue loss to Bangladesh, ranging between USD 13.5 million to USD 19.1 million. By contrast, Sri Lanka’s revenue loss will be slight at USD 1.4 million to USD 1.9 million.

Whatever the arrangement, it is crucial to include the products with high export potential in the offensive lists (See Table 1 for the major products). Out of 39 products in Bangladesh’s offensive list, 21 are intermediate goods, while 18 are consumption goods. Similarly, 75 out of 115 products in Sri Lanka’s offensive list are intermediate goods. Tariff cuts on intermediate products may induce fragmented production between two countries, which would harness country-specific comparative advantages. Major intermediate goods in the offensive lists are dyed cotton fabrics, cartons, boxes, and cases, plain woven fabrics of cotton, denim, natural rubber, and smoked sheets of natural rubber (Table 1).

The ex-ante estimates predict modest gains for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in absolute terms, even after completely removing the sensitive list. But complete removal is politically challenging for both countries. Moreover, Bangladesh as an LDC may expect special and differential (S&D) treatment. Thus, the outcome can be a limited PTA in line with weaknesses in existing trade agreements governing South Asian trade. The impact on trade of regional trade agreements in force is negative primarily due to stringent general regulatory measures, including rules of origin (ROO), sensitive lists, and prolonged phasing-in. Given that the estimated modest economic gains of a Bangladesh-Sri Lanka PTA do not justify a trade deal that requires substantial resources for negotiations,the PTA should have fewer regulatory measures and tariff concessions for the products on the offensive lists to maximise the economic benefits of a PTA between the two countries.

Link to the full Talking Economics blog: https://www.ips.lk/talkingeconomics/2022/01/20/bangladesh-sri-lanka-preferential-trade-agreement-gains-and-policy-challenges/

Asanka Wijesinghe is a Research Economist at IPS with research interests in macroeconomic policy, international trade, labour and health economics. He holds a BSc in Agricultural Technology and Management from the University of Peradeniya, an MS in Agribusiness and Applied Economics from North Dakota State University, and an MS and PhD in Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics from The Ohio State University. (Talk with Asanka – asanka@ips.lk)

Chathurrdhika Yogarajah is a Research Assistant at IPS with research interests in macroeconomics and trade policy. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Technology and Management, specialised in Applied Economics and Business Management from the University of Peradeniya with First Class Honours. She is currently reading for her Master’s in Agricultural Economics at the Postgraduate Institute of Agriculture, Peradeniya. (Talk with Chathurrdhika: chathurrdhika@ips.lk)



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AkzoNobel honours students of City School of Architecture at Colour Awards 2021-2022

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– Annual design competition celebrates young design talent for fourth year running

AkzoNobel Paints Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., in partnership with the City School of Architecture (CSA), honoured the winners of the Colour Awards 2021-2022 at the CSA Graduation & Awards Ceremony held recently at the BMICH.

A partnership initiated four years ago by the producer of Dulux paints in Sri Lanka, the annual competition hopes to raise the bar of design and innovation standards and encourage young creative talent as important future players in a fast-evolving industry.

Every year the prize invites first year students from the City School of Architecture to face a new colour and architecture-themed design challenge. After several mentoring sessions by the academic staff of CSA -namely Archt. Nela de Zoyza, Archt. Anurangi Mendis, and Archt. Shayan Kumaradas-, participants are then required to produce a final submission and present it to a high-profile selection committee.

This year, each submission was reviewed by a star-studded panel of industry specialists, including Mr. Romesh de Silva, Ms. Charmaine Mendis, Archt. Shevanthi Basnayake, Archt. Kosala Weerasekera, Archt. Rehan Thillakeratne, and Archt Nandika Denipitiya, together with the Managing Director of AkzoNobel Paints in Sri Lanka, Mr. Wasantha Heenatigala.

Following a rigorous judging process, the five most impressive submissions were chosen, with winners being conferred a generous cash reward, as well the prestige of having being recognized by the pioneers of the paint manufacturing industry in Sri Lanka and the world.

Speaking at this year’s ceremony, Upendra Gunawardhana, Head of Marketing of AkzoNobel Sri Lanka commented, “As a leading global paints and coating company, we are convinced that in helping develop and highlight emerging talent, we are also playing a crucial role in shaping the future of the industry. With the Colour Awards we hope to provide a platform through which university students can hone their design thinking skills on an industry level, while at the same time also consistently set benchmarks of innovation for the years to come.”

“Over the years AkzoNobel has played a significant role in supporting the educational growth and creative development of our students through its Colour Awards,” said Archt. Professor Lal Balasuriya, Head of School of the City School of Architecture. “Here, young design aspirants are given the chance to test the limits of both, their creative ingenuity and industry acumen, and we’re sincerely grateful to AkzoNobel for this transformative opportunity.”

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Emirates and Dilmah Tea celebrate 30 years of partnership

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Dubai, UAE, May 2022 – Emirates and Dilmah Tea have enjoyed a longstanding partnership of brewing the finest teas on board and in Emirates’ airport lounges around the world for the past 30 years. To mark the milestone on International Tea Day, all Emirates’ passengers received a special tea box when they flew from Dubai a few days ago.

 In addition, First Class passengers on flights to the UK were treated to a food pairing, while passengers in the Emirates’ Onboard Lounge were offered Dilmah Tea infused mocktails. The special tea pack for all passengers who flew on Saturday contained three different flavours: Ceylon Breakfast, an Emirates exclusive Turmeric Coconut and Vanilla tea, and the popular Earl Grey with Honey.

 In First Class, Emirates offered the Brilliant Breakfast, one of the many gourmet teas created by passionate Tea Maker and Dilmah founder, Merrill J. Fernando. This was paired with the afternoon tea service on board.

 Moroccan Mint Green tea was exquisitely paired alongside Labneh – a tangy and creamy yoghurt – with roast vegetables for vegetarians. While Dilmah’s Sench Green Extra Special tea – renowned for its delicate taste with herbal finish with a touch of sweetness –  was served with sushi, particularly seafood.

 “Emirates focuses on dishes that emphasise fresh ingredients of the highest quality. We pay special attention to every detail and the quality of the tea we offer our customers is no different. The fact that we have served Dilmah Tea for 30 years across all our cabins is proof of its quality and our satisfaction with the perfect cup of tea.

“We have an exceptional partnership with Dilmah and we have grown in tandem for the last 30 years. Over 9.6 million tea bags are used each year across our fleet with more than 10 tea varieties on offer, including an exclusive Emirates Signature Tea served in First Class,” said Thomas Ney, DSVP, Service Delivery at Emirates.

 Dilhan C. Fernando, son of Dilmah Founder and CEO of the family company explained: “For 30 years we have grown a tea inspired collaboration with Emirates, offering customers a uniquely Emirates experience in tea. To celebrate the Pearl Anniversary of our partnership in tea, we made a tea that is as rare as it is magnificent. A seasonal tea with extraordinary finesse, handpicked from tea bushes prepared for months and crafted into a numbered limited-edition tea.

“Our co-operation with Emirates truly presents the luxury in fine tea, and – in our tea mocktails and food pairings – contemporary, tea inspired hospitality. For the last 30 years we have created these unique moments for Emirates customers either on the ground, in its lounges around the world, or at 40,000 feet and this year is no different. We are excited to have the special 30-year blend on board Emirates’ fleet.”

A world-class partnership

Millions of world class cups of tea have been poured for Emirates’ customers since the airline’s partnership with Dilmah began in 1992.

The airline brings the finest products on board through long standing partnerships worldwide, including support for local suppliers and artisans. Emirates takes the Dilmah brand to more than 130 destinations on six continents.

 The teas offered on Emirates are chosen by popularity amongst customers, catering to different preferences like minty or citrus infusions as well as by looking at tea drinking trends. With an increasing focus on wellness amongst customers, the airline recently introduced a new tea in its airport lounges – Turmeric, coconut and vanilla featuring antioxidant properties.

 On board, the most popular tea in Economy Class is the Dilmah Ceylon Black Tea while passengers in First and Business Class favour Moroccan Mint and Breakfast Tea. Emirates serves a selection of six teas in Business Class and its airport lounges, and a further six teas in First Class.

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Wing Commander (Retd.) D. Pradeep S. Kannangara elected president, Industrial Security Foundation

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The Industrial Security Foundation (ISF) which acts as the sole organization in Sri Lanka to represent the Private Security industry having incorporated by an Act passed in the Parliament, Act No. 51 of 1999, elected Wing Commander (Retd.) Pradeep Kannangara as its President for the years 2022/2023 at its 30th annual General Meeting which was held at the PIM Auditorium in Borella. Wing Commander Pradeep Kannangara was appointed President while 14 other members were appointed to the Executive Committee, strengthening the ISF in order to drive and uplift the standards of the private security industry in Sri Lanka.

He has served on the ExCo consecutively since 2012 under four different presidents where he held the positions of Senior Vice President during the last three consecutive years. He has also been a committed member of the ISF and was awarded prestigious coveted FISF title due to his many valuable contributions to the organization and the Private Security Industry in Sri Lanka in 2012.

Wing Commander Kannangara’s journey into private security began after a successful career in the Sri Lanka Air Force for over 24 years where he served in many capacities finally being the Officer Commanding of the Special Air Borne Force. A recipient of the Ranasura Padakkama (RSP) Gallantry award for his bravery, sacrifices and service to the nation by the President of the Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in 1990. He holds a Master’s in business management from the Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia too and serves as a Board Director in AB Securitas (Private) Limited in Sri Lanka and AB Securitas Bangladesh Limited.

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