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Tehran springs August surprise on Colombo


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 13 June 2018 08:00


From left: First Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission of the Iranian Embassy in Sri Lanka Mr. Ahmadi, Iranian Ambassador in Sri Lanka Mohammad Zaerl Amirani  and Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen meet on 11 June at the ministry premises

 

Buoyed by the outcome of a recently-concluded Sri Lankan state visit, Iran has now called for pivotal Joint Economic Commission talks to be held in Tehran as early as this August.

“As per our own assessment, the May 2018 state visit by the Lankan delegation to Iran was very good and productive,” voiced an upbeat Iranian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Mohammad Zaerl Amirani on 11 June. 

Ambassador Amirani, joined by his First Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission Mr. Ahmadi, was addressing Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen during a courtesy call on Minister Bathiudeen. 

“The outcomes of the state visit led by President Maithripala Sirisena were good. I also praise Minister Bathiudeen - for your contributory role during the visit. Among the major outcomes were the many Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) signed between both countries in Tehran. These pack great benefits for Sri Lanka. During this visit our President Hassan Rouhani also stressed the need to continue with the bilateral Joint Commission for Economic Co-operation (JCEC) meeting series. In this light, as well as to start on the new MoUs, we now propose to hold the 12th JCEC in Tehran, ideally this August. Specific dates in August could be mutually decided. This JCEC can also help grow our trade numbers which need a boost,” said Ambassador Amirani.

According to the Department of Commerce, total bilateral trade between the two countries last year was at $ 188 million – an increase of 4.5% over 2016’s total of $ 180 million. The balance of trade was in favour of Sri Lanka as 94% of total trade ($ 177 million) were exports from Sri Lanka to Iran. Among the leading exports from Sri Lanka to Iran in 2017 were Ceylon Tea (90%), desiccated coconut (3%), other vegetable mixtures (2%) and defatted coconuts (1%). Total imports were only $ 11 million - the leading four imports were fish, wires and cables, grapes and plastic items. Until 2013 imports were at a much higher rate (2011- $ 1.4 billion, 2012 - $ 660 million) due to incoming petroleum from Iran but since 2013 the import of petroleum ceased, causing a rapid fall in imports from Iran.  

Minister Bathiudeen welcomed Ambassador Amirani’s invitation and directed his officials to work on specific dates. 

“We extend our appreciation for the warm hospitality extended by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the government of Iran and the people of Iran towards the Sri Lankan delegation. I also praise the many bilateral offers and concessions extended by Iran to Sri Lanka,” he said. 

“The series of JCEC has been helpful in advancing our relations in many ways. The MoUs were on drug trafficking, health, standardisation, the film industry and the exchange of students. Since the bulk of our exports are a single product (tea made up 90% of exports in 2017) it is time to diversify our exports basket to Iran. An August JCEC can help us with these,” he added.  

The last JCEC – the 11th in the series – was held in Colombo in February 2016.

 


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