Sri Lanka and Iran identified that direct business to business contacts on a mutual basis and market access on both sides could be improved ‘vastly’ from that of current levels, as trade between both countries stood at US$ 808.63 m in 2010, the Industry and Commerce Ministry said in a statement.
“A main concern on our exporters’ side is insufficient access to Iranian markets. Both countries should take necessary steps in this regard,” said Industry and Commerce Ministry Rishad Bathiudeen.
Minister Bathiudeen was addressing Iranian Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Mahmoud Rahimi Gorji on 22 September, when Ambassador Gorji made a courtesy call on Bathiudeen in Colombo.
According to the Commerce Department of Sri Lanka, trade between Sri Lanka and Iran has continued to show a positive trend since 2001 despite the balance of trade between two countries heavily and continuously being in favour of Iran over the years. According to Customs data, Iran was Sri Lanka’s fourth import destination in 2010. In 2008, bilateral trade topped US$ 1.3 b.
Responding to Minister Bathiudeen, Ambassador Gorji said that Iran was keen to see direct business delegations from Sri Lanka, as a step towards increased trade cooperation.
“As part of strengthening Sri Lanka-Iran trade cooperation, I invite direct participation of Sri Lankan businesses for forthcoming trade shows scheduled across Iran,” Gorji said.
“Our exporters’ main concern is that the lack of direct access to Iranian markets. Both countries should take necessary steps in this regard,” Minister Bathiudeen said. “Sri Lanka is thankful for development assistance from Iran. The assistance from Iran is also a major factor in strengthening our historical relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Both Minister Bathiudeen and Ambassador Gorji also explored the possibility of holding the next session of the bilateral Joint Economic Commission meeting in Tehran.
Both countries had already expressed interest towards this end when the Iranian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Seyyed Amir Mansour Borghai took part in a special dinner meeting at the Cinnamon Grand, Colombo, on 28 July 2011 hosted by Bathiudeen.
“I invite a high level business delegation from Iran to Sri Lanka’s mega export show ‘Sri Lanka Expo 2012’ to be held in March 2012. Iran and Sri Lanka have been enjoying excellent bilateral relations on the pillars of friendship and mutual cooperation. Our relations have always been cordial and congenial,” Minister Bathiudeen added.