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First Japanese bank enters local financial industry

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DFT-1-133International Trade State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe (second from left) shakes hands with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU) CEO Go Watanabe. Others from left: BOI Chairman Upul Jayasuriya, National Policies and Economic Affairs State Minister Niroshan Perera and Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Kenichi Suganuma  – Pic by Upul Abayasekara



By Charumini de Silva

Japan’s Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. (BTMU) yesterday announced the commencement of its business operations at the representative office in Colombo to promote investment between the two countries.

Noting that Sri Lanka is one of the countries where Japanese direct investments have been growing, BTMU Asia and Oceania CEO Go Watanabe said they intended to establish a presence locally which would not only benefit BTMU, but also contribute to the economic growth of the country.

“We are honoured to be the first Japanese bank to be granted approval to open a representative office here in Sri Lanka and with this we can gain greater insight into the local market. This helps us to provide timely support to our customers who are based here or plan to establish a footprint here. We look forward to partnering you in further developing the economic and financial industry in Sri Lanka,” he added.

The new BTMU Colombo office will play a critical role in facilitating greater cross border investments between Sri Lanka and BTMU global network, which extends to over 40 countries. 

Watanabe pointed out that as Sri Lanka looks to fast track growth the bank would allow financial institutions and local companies to tap into their BTMU global network to gain access to global financial markets for their funding needs. 

He went on to say the representative office in Colombo will focus on supporting Japanese companies for their investment activities in Sri Lanka; managing relationships between BTMU and Government institutions or customers in Sri Lanka and conducting research into the political and economic situation, financial market and business environment in Sri Lanka.

The establishment of the new representative office would further deepen their presence in the Asia and Oceania region — particularly in South Asia, where the bank has eight offices.

“Now we believe that Asian market including the South Asian market is our most important core market, which is why we have a strong commitment. It is a long prospective commitment. We think of the long-term relationship with our customers and people,” he stressed.

National Policy and Economic Affairs State Minister Niroshan Perera invited Japan to use Sri Lanka as a base to expand their trading activities in the Asia region.

According to the Minister in addition to the MoU between BOI and BTMU the bank has also signed a MoU with Bank of Ceylon (BoC) to create a wide range of financial services products. 

Highlighting that Sri Lanka is yet to fully explore the Japanese market he asserted that the country needs to graduate from traditional exports and embrace industries that generate high value exports to be competitive. 

“BTMU has the capacity to offer cost effective and diverse export credit platform for the Sri Lankan exporters to navigate the Japanese market. We hope Japan will be a major source of funding as we transform the economy of Sri Lanka,” Perera added.

Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka Kenichi Suganuma observed there is growing interest from Japanese businesses and investors for investment in Sri Lanka. 

He said that they have just begun follow ups on several initiatives which the two Governments discussed during State leaders President Maithripala Sirisena and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s vists last year with regards to the comprehensive partnership last week. 

“We had the first policy dialog between Japan and Sri Lanka which would be followed by economic corporation dialog in February and several dialogs to come in the immediate future,” he stressed.

Drawing attention to private funding, he said it was a critical factor for the development of infrastructure in Sri Lanka. 

“Of course, Japan will continue to support Sri Lanka through the official development assistance, but there are many private financing schemes that are available.  I hope that many new other initiatives will be taken to promote both investment and development of infrastructure which is essential to the further development of Sri Lanka,” Suganuma pointed out.

BoI Chairman Upul Jayasuriya said the entire focus of the Government of Sri Lanka is now on enhancing the FDI flow into our country. 

However he pointed that certain systems and ease of doing business in Sri Lanka needs to be improved, which they have already embarked upon and is in the process.

“We have identified the blockages and areas which we can improve to fast track investment process in Sri Lanka and currently we are in the process of coming out with a trade agency and an economic agency,” he noted. 

International Trade State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe asserted the close relations with Japan is strengthening and is expecting more investments from the country.

“The opening of BTMU is an indication of the Government’s hard work which is now paying off. Although we are a small country, Sri Lanka has the potential to be the greatest power in the Asian region,” he stated.

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