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‘International Trade at the Tipping Point’ Trade Finance Association of Bankers seminar a grand succ

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Trade Finance Association of Bankers held its annual public seminar recently at the Main Ballroom, ‘Golden Rose’, Boralesgamuwa. This was as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations on the theme ‘International Trade at the Tipping point’. The seminar was well attended and the participants were mainly bankers, importers and exporters.

Hatton National Bank Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Alles delivering the keynote said that the government policy is to grow exports through Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Government’s ‘Vision 2025’ targets Exports of $ 20 billion and Foreign Direct Investments of $ 5 billion per annum, thereby raising the per capita income. It plans to enhance capacity by embrace new technology, making value additions to the traditional basket, establishing regional value chains and a global production networks.

In setting up of manufacturing industries through PPP and FDI, focus will be on the priority areas for investment and the Government has set up a PPP Unit under the Ministry of Finance. The Government plans to integrate with the Global Production Networks through export oriented industrialisation. It will focus on Ease of Doing Business Index and formulate the new Trade Policy and the National Export Strategy to make Sri Lanka a global trade and logistics hub thereby attracting more export-oriented FDIs, and improve trade logistics, create transparent and efficient customs procedures in order to compete in global markets. Banks’ role will be to access to finance, to facilitate innovative products, e-commerce and m-commerce and as advisors to broaden horizons.

Digitalisation will be a key factor; technology transformation with a priority for Trade Finance. The benefits of new technology have not been fully realised; convergence of physical, financial and document chains, the automation of key processes, due-diligence checks, streamlining Customs procedures in order to reduce costs and complexities and improve working-capital management.

With regard to GSP+ and Free Trade Agreements) FTA), access to European Union has not been exploited to its true potential. India and Pakistan FTAs have been disappointing. FTAs with China and Singapore are being pursued. Free markets, protectionism, anti-dumping laws are being formulated. With regard to infrastructure development which is necessary for high rate of economic growth, administrative and legal frameworks are being formulate with policy or regulatory support to boost public and private investment

The concerns that need to be addressed are; the large fiscal deficits; inflationary pressure; the large import content, strain on the trade balance and balance of payments and high foreign debt servicing costs. Hence we must; prioritise infrastructure investment which should lead to higher export earnings. Reduce import expenditure and improve ports and transport infrastructure.

The keynote was followed by a presentation on the ‘Emerging Developments in Trade – Implications for Sri Lanka by Anushka Wijesinha, Economist, Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade. He amplified some of the issues raised in the keynote with regard to the government’s plans to develop international trade and how the trade practitioners can contribute to its success.

Bank Guarantees – Present Trends and Future Potential was the next topic which was delivered by Ravi Molligoda, Attorney-at-Law, former Assistant general Manager, Peoples Bank who emphasised on the dangers and pitfalls of bank guarantees as a an Applicant, Guarantor as well as a Beneficiary.

Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing was extensively dealt with by Shalini Peiris, Head of compliance and Anti-Money Laundering, Deutsche Bank AG, Colombo Branch. She stressed the importance of strict compliance regulations and the dangers of not adhering to them.

The post lunch session was started by Parama Dharmawardene, Consultant, former Deputy General Manager, Sampath Bank with Case Studies on Documentary Credits and Documentary collections in order to highlight the complex issues and the correct interpretation of the ICC Rules.

The final session was a panel discussion. The panellists were Parama Dharmawardene, Janathi llangantilake, Assistant General Manager, Trade Services, Hatton National Bank and Chatura Rudesh, Head of Trade Services, Sampath Bank. The Moderator was Nilam Jumat, Former Assistant General Manager, Hatton National Bank. The audience used this session to clarify their doubts and explanations on complex issues. The response from the audience was overwhelming and the session had to be extended to answer all questions received.

The Association wishes to thank its sponsors for their generosity, Platinum Sponsors were: Commercial Bank, Bank of Ceylon and Deutsche Bank; Gold Sponsors: were Seylan Bank and Peoples Bank, Silver Sponsors were: Sampath Bank, NDB Bank and AB Securitas, Bronze sponsors were; Hatton National Bank, HSBC, Citibank and SLECIC. Pan Asia Bank, Nations Trust Bank, Union Bank and DFCC Bank also joined with sponsorships. The Print Media Partners were DailyFT, Sunday Times and the Daily Mirror.

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