A trade delegation of dates growers and exporters has arrived in Sri Lanka from Pakistan to enhance the bilateral trade and to introduce the Pakistani date varieties in the Sri Lankan market. During their stay in Sri Lanka, the delegation will be holding meetings with the Sri Lankan fruit and dry fruit importers as well as other stakeholders to explore the possibilities of enhancing bilateral trade.

In Pakistan dates are cultivated since time immoral. Some 5000 years ago seed stones were found in storage bins excavated in Mohan Jo Daro, in Indus Valley which is considered as one of the oldest civilization of world. Date palm is an important fruit of Pakistan. It is the 3rd largest fruit grown after Mango and citrus. Pakistan falls in such an agro-ecological region where dates are grown on large scale with superior quality. Pakistan is ranked as the 2nd largest exporter and 4th largest producer of dates in the world. This fruit is grown  on more than 80,000 hectares  with production at more than 6.5 million metric tons annually.

Pakistan is exporting its dates to more than 30 countries around the world such as USA, China, India, UK and Germany etc and holds important position in world’s dates trade. Pakistan’s dates enjoy top position in terms of quality in the market for several countries including USA, China, Nepal, India, Canada and Denmark.

The annual quantity of dates export per year is about 90,000 metric tons. The products Pakistan export are soft dates, dry dates, half repend dates as daug or rutab, dates blacks, pelted dates with almond and khewnuts. Presently Pakistan is holding 11%  share of the world date production.

Pakistan is the 2nd largest trading partner of Sri Lanka within the South Asian region. The level of bilateral trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka increased as a result of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Trade between the two countries increased from US$ 150 million to over US$ 300 million during the last three years, as it doubled within a short period of time with the positive support gained from the FTA.

Bilateral trade between the two countries strengthened as reflected by an increase in the number of products imported from and exported to Sri Lanka such as fish, meat, vegetable, foliage, plant, sugar, biscuits, pastry, cakes, mineral products, fiber boards, leather and leather-based products, footwear, gems, jewellery, value-added copper products, electrical items, bicycles, boats, and floating structures. There was a great demand for Pakistani produces such as cotton yarn, fabrics, potatoes, pharmaceutical products, knitted or crocheted fabrics, articles of iron and steel, galvanized pipes, rice, fish, seafood, textile articles, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, rods of refined copper etc.

Sri Lanka was the first country to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Pakistan. FTA between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is operational from June 12, 2005. Under FTA, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have agreed to offer preferential market access to each others’ exports by way of granting tariff concessions. Sri Lanka enabled to enjoy duty free market access on 206 products in the Pakistani market, while Pakistan, gained duty free access on 102 products in the Sri Lankan market. The aim of a free trade agreement is to reduce barriers, to facilitate exchange so that trade can grow as a result of specialization, division of labor, and most importantly via comparative advantage. Items in the zero duty list of Pakistan include frozen fish, vegetables, spices, fruits/juices, polymers of vinyl chloride in primary forms, natural rubber, raw silk, tanned/crust skins, wool, some varieties of paper and board, carpet and floor covering, non-alloy aluminum, iron and steel products and toys/dolls.
Sri Lanka’s zero duty items under the FTA include chickpeas, dates, oranges, benzene, toluene, apparel and clothing accessories, ball bearing, penicillin/ streptomycin/ tetracycline and their derivatives and vacuum flasks.

The two brotherly countries have also signed the Bilateral Investment treaty in December 1997, which came into force in January 2000 after ratification. In addition a memorandum of understanding between Board of Investment Pakistan and Board of Investment Sri Lanka has also been signed in February 2007 for strengthening of cooperation in all the sectors of investment of both countries. This MoU provides support to the enterprises on both sides and encourages them to invest in both countries. The two Boards of Investment also practice sharing of information on investment polices and projects and encourage exchange of expertise.

The civilizational links between Pakistan and Sri Lanka date back to the dawn of Buddhism. The archaeological sites in Taxila, adjacent to Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad, are a living testimony to this fact.