The panellists from left: Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Vice Chairperson and Sunshine Holdings Group Managing Director Vish Govindasamy, British High Commission in Sri Lanka Head of Trade and Investment Michael Fernandopulle, Dialog Axiata Group Chief Officer Jeremy Huxtable, Moderator BOI Chairman Mangala Yapa, De La Rue Director/Head of Operations Andrew Hydes and Global Sourcing Association President Kerry Hallard
Presenting ‘Opportunity Sri Lanka’ which encompasses Sri Lanka’s strategic location, unparalleled market access to South Asia, Europe, and America, and a talented workforce with a willingness to do business with the world, Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva urged British businesses to take advantage of Sri Lanka’s rapidly transformed economic landscape for mutual benefit.
Dr. de Silva made these remarks delivering the Keynote Address at the Sri Lanka Investment Forum in London on 9 October, organised by the High Commission of Sri Lanka in London in association with the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, the London Stock Exchange Group and the Sri Lanka Association of Software and Services Companies (SLASSCOM).
The forum held at the London Stock Exchange was attended by more than 120 participants including 70 representatives from the corporate sector, 18 from British institutions and associations, and cross-party parliamentarians and senior Government officials from the UK.
The sectors represented at the Forum were IT and IT enabled services, manufacturing, logistics, tourism infrastructure, financial services, education and skills development, renewable energy, among others. Minister de Silva and delegation were welcomed at the London Stock Exchange by Global Head of Primary Markets and Turquoise and London Stock Exchange Group CEO Dr. Robert Barnes, who also addressed the forum.
Welcoming the participants at the event, High Commissioner Manisha Gunasekera said the special bond that the UK enjoys with Sri Lanka due to historical reasons was essentially a force for good in sustaining the centrality of Sri Lanka’s investment and trade relationship with the UK.
The UK which absorbs nearly 10% of Sri Lanka’s total exports, is the second single largest export destination, and also the fifth largest FDI sourced country for Sri Lanka. For these reasons, Sri Lanka looks forward to continuing its dialogue with the British Government to safeguard the current market access levels and preferences following post-Brexit arrangements.
She identified the English language and Sri Lanka’s shared educational, administrative, governance and legal systems, as factors contributing to the close bilateral economic cooperation between Sri Lanka and the UK, and invited the participants to be part of a virtuous circle of such close cooperation and synergy.
The Chief Guest of the event Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the UN and South Asia Minister of State Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, recalling his very recent visit to Sri Lanka, said he had the opportunity to meet leading business people in Sri Lanka and discuss opportunities for economic growth, development and strengthening commercial links with the UK.
He emphasised the need to do much more to strengthen the incredible collaboration and future cooperation between the UK and Sri Lanka which share important bonds. He appreciated the contribution made by British Sri Lankans to all facets of life in the UK.
He said he was struck by the energy and drive of Sri Lankan business leaders and youth. Lord Ahmad noted Sri Lanka’s status as a vibrant emerging trading hub and the upward move of Sri Lanka’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2019 by 11 notches. Presentations on Sri Lanka’s macroeconomic outlook and investment opportunities were made by Central Bank of Sri Lanka Senior Deputy Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe and Board of Investment of Sri Lanka Chairman Mangala Yapa, while Ann Neidenbach of the London Stock Exchange Group and Chris Trill of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation made presentations on their success stories and flagship partnerships in Sri Lanka.
SLASSCOM past Chairman Ruwindu Peiris presented on the digital competitiveness of Sri Lanka, and Colombo Port City Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Liang Thow Ming on investment opportunities in Colombo Port City.
The event concluded with a panel discussion and Q&A session moderated by BOI Chairman Mangala Yapa, where Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Vice Chair Vish Gowindasamy, Dialog Axiata PLC Group Chief Officer Jeremy Huxtable, De La Rue PLC Head of Operations Andrew Hydes, Global Sourcing Association President Kerry Hallard, and British High Commission in Colombo Head of Trade and Investment Michael Fernandopulle were the panellists.
The forum also included a networking session and B2Bs. During his visit to the UK, Minister de Silva also met International Trade former Secretary of State MP Dr. Liam Fox and International Trade Minister of State MP Conor Burns.
The meeting with Minister Burns focussed on UK-Sri Lanka bilateral trade and the status of Sri Lanka’s exports to the UK market post-Brexit, including ways and means of safeguarding their competitiveness and preferences.