British Deputy High Commissioner Mark Gooding yesterday set out the UK’s plans to boost trade and investment between the UK and Sri Lanka.
Addressing the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL), Gooding said: “The close historical ties between the UK and Sri Lanka make us natural partners in prosperity. Already Sri Lankan exports to the UK are worth $ 1 billion a year, UK companies provide $ 300 million in foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka, and over 100 UK affiliated companies operate in Sri Lanka. The end of nearly 30 years of civil war in Sri Lanka and the economic recovery in the UK have given the UK and Sri Lanka a historic opportunity to create new business partnerships and further increase two way trade and investment. The British High Commission is committed to supporting this process, and stands ready to assist UK and Sri Lankan companies in building prosperity together.”
Gooding described the UK as “the natural choice” for Sri Lankan companies looking to do business overseas. He highlighted the advantages of doing business in the UK, including its open business environment, its history of sustained growth, its stable and well-regulated business environment – one of the least corrupt in the world – its flexible labour market and the fact that it is a global trading centre and a gateway to the European market.
Gooding announced a number of steps the British Government was taking to promote bilateral trade and investment. The British High Commission provides extensive market support to British companies wishing to invest in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan companies wishing to do business in the UK. The British Government has also just increased its level of export credit cover for UK companies wishing to invest in Sri Lanka from £150 million to £200 million, and is developing a new business express visa programme for companies whose staff need to travel regularly to the UK.
Sri Lankan exports to the UK totalled US $1 billion in 2009, and imports from the UK were US$ 186 million, making the UK Sri Lanka’s second largest trading partner. Meanwhile, according to statistics released by the Board of Investment (BoI), UK companies provided US$ 300 million of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Sri Lanka last year – over 10% of all FDI and more than any other country apart from China.
Moreover, there are currently over 100 companies in Sri Lanka with a UK affiliation across a wide range of sectors like the Financial Services (HSBC, Standard Chartered, Aviva), Garment Sourcing (Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Triumph, Next), Pharmaceutical (GSK) , Construction (Mabey Bridge, Scott Wilson).
UK’s Exports Credit Guarantee Department [ECGD] has underwritten on preferential terms many successful projects in Sri Lanka. ECGD has recently increased its level of cover available for Sri Lanka, from £150m [approx. US$240] to £200m [approx. US$320m.]. ECGD is therefore geared up to offer support to UK exporters in projects aimed at rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, and its economy. In line with OECD Principles and Guidelines, ECGD supports projects which support Sri Lanka’s economic and social progress, without endangering its financial future and long-term development prospects.
The British High Commission is committed to facilitating travel to the UK for Sri Lankan businesses with an efficient and straightforward visa application process. Last year, the British High Commission received and processed over 30,000 visa applications in Sri Lanka.
A vast majority of non settlement visas have been processed within 15 working days. Visa applications of Business Travellers who have travelled UK, US, Australia or Canada within the last five years, are processed in Colombo within five working days.
The High Commission is currently developing a new Business Express Programme for Sri Lankan businesses, under which businesses will be able to access a quicker and easier visa application process. The High Commission hopes to be announcing the details of this soon. If you’re planning to travel to the UK, please apply for your visa as early as possible, and do follow the online guidance closely so that you provide the correct information and documents.
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) is the government department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. It also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK’s economy – acknowledged as Europe’s best place from which to succeed in global business. UKTI offers expertise and contacts through its extensive network of specialists in the UK, and in British embassies and other diplomatic offices around the world. It provides companies with the tools they require to be competitive on the world stage. For more information on UKTI, visit www.ukti.gov.uk.