A security personnel stands next to billboards showing pictures of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (C), Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (R) and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (L) beside the President's Palace in Islamabad on February 10, 2012. Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in Islamabad on a three-day state visit to Pakistan to further strengthen political, economic and defence ties between the two countries. -AFP Photo

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday called for stepping up efforts to fully realize the potential of a Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka. He called for an increase in bilateral trade between the two countries from $375 million to $2 billion target in the next three years.

The president urged for further exploring the currency swap agreement with Sri Lanka, which, he said would provide huge incentives to business houses in both the countries to actively explore and enhance business linkages as they use local currencies for trade.

The president said this during a one-to-one meeting with his Sri Lankan counterpart, President Mahinda Rajapaksa followed by delegation level talks in Islamabad at Aiwan-e-Sadr.

Those who were present during the delegation level meeting included among others Hina Rabbani Khar, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator A. Rehman Malik, Federal Minister for Interior, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance, M. Salman Faruqui, Secretary General to the President, Saleem H Mandviwala, Salman Bashir, Foreign Secretary, Maj (R) Haroon Rashid, Special Secretary, Seema Ilahi Baloch, Pakistan Ambassador to Sri Lanka and other senior officials.

The Sri Lankan President was assisted by Prof G.L Peiris, Minister for External Affairs, Duminda Dissanayake, Deputy Minister, Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, Monitoring MP, Lalith Weerathunga, Secretary to the President, Karunatilaka Amunugama, Secretary Ministry of External Affairs, ACM Jayalath Weerakkody, Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Pakistan.

Briefing the media Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said matters regarding Pak-Sri Lankan bilateral relations, mutual cooperation with special reference to trade and commercial ties besides regional and international issues were discussed during the meeting.

President Zaradri during the meeting called upon the business community and Chambers of Commerce of the two countries to fully avail the huge trade and business potential the two countries offer in diverse fields including finance and banking sector, science and technology, defence, agriculture, tourism and besides promoting cultural exchanges between the two countries.

The president also proposed the establishment of a direct shipping service between the two countries which he said would help enhance the level of bilateral trade.

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