Japan continues to be a top partner of Sri Lanka as our bilateral trade with the Land of the Rising Sun topped $ 1.2 b in 2011 and knowledge transfer of Japanese manufacturing practices to Sri Lanka has helped improve quality of manufacturing here.
“Japan has always been a key trading partner as well as a generous donor nation for Sri Lanka. We remember of the multitude of Japanese assistance extended to Sri Lanka with warm gratitude, amongst them were granting of the first island-wide TV network Rupavahini. Concepts as the Japanese ‘5S’ have made a huge impact on the improvement of our product quality,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen.
Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the opening of the ‘JASTECA Exhibition & Trade Fair 2012’ organised by Colombo’s Japan Sri Lanka Technical & Cultural Association on Friday to commemorate 60 years of Japan-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations.
More than 3,000 Sri Lankans have received Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship (AOTS) training on technical and managerial aspects in Japan and are now steadily contributing to industry sectors in Sri Lanka-both products and services.
Established in 1984, JASTECA is a non-profit service organisation functioning as the alumni of AOTS Japan. The Executive Committee and the membership of JASTECA consists of returned trainees of AOTS scholarship programs, who have volunteered their services to coordinate scholarship activities and also to disseminate the knowledge and expertise gained in Japan to other Sri Lankans.
“Japan and Sri Lanka have been having close, cordial and warm bilateral relations not only in the trade and economic fields but also in several other areas such as culture and education. The bilateral discourse also goes back to a long time. According to historical records, Emperor Showa travelled to Ceylon in the early 1920s as the Crown Prince of Japan and visited cities like Colombo and Kandy. The successive Governments of Japan and Sri Lanka have been able to further strengthen the friendly relations to even higher levels that we are witnessing today.
“We remember the strengthening of Sri Lanka Telecom, grant of Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital and grant aid to develop various road networks, enhance education and academic scholarships. Such aid has been a solid pillar of generous Japanese assistance to Sri Lanka. I am aware that many of the participating companies in the JASTECA Exhibition & Trade Fair 2012 are currently employing Japanese Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP),” Minister Bathiudeen said.
The total bilateral trade, which stood at US$ 493 m in 2002, has increased to US$ 1249.03 m in 2011. Balance of trade with Japan is unfavourable to Sri Lanka, due to imports of high value motor vehicles, in particular. However, total trade has significantly dropped in 2009 due to the impact of the global recession, although it increased in 2011.
Tea has been the main item of exports from Sri Lanka to Japan, which accounts for 29.8% of the total value of Sri Lanka’s exports to Japan in 2010. Tea exports have risen from US$ 19 million to US$ 50 m in 2010.
Other items of exports to Japan are shrimps and prawns, apparel and clothing , precious and semi-precious stones, natural rubber, machines parts and accessories, brooms, brushes, tyres and vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Imports of motor vehicles from Japan accounted for more than 50% of the value of total imports from Japan in 2010. Other import items from Japan include electrical machinery, self-propelled bulldozers, iron or steel, parts and accessories of motor vehicles, etc. In 2009, the value of total imports from Japan to Sri Lanka recorded the lowest value since 2002, but it increased in 2011 due to the duty reduction.
There are already 60 Japanese enterprises operating in Sri Lanka under the BOI with a total investment of US$ 350 million, providing more than 12,000 people employment.
Prospects for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Sri Lanka and Japan have also come under discussion at bilateral level. In the first week of June 2011, the then Japanese Ambassador Kunio Takahashi, during a meeting with Minister Bathiudeen in Colombo, acknowledged the idea that an FTA with Japan would help Sri Lanka contribute to Lanka-Japan bilateral trade dialogue.
Speaking of JASTECA’s role, Minister Bathiudeen said: “I understand that JASTECA is organising this exhibition to commemorate this important landmark event of 60 years of friendly relations and also to showcase the success stories of the trainees who have been sent from Sri Lanka to Japan for technical and managerial training. With all these achievements, it is clear that the valuable assistance from the Government and the people of Japan has made an unprecedented contribution towards the progress of Sri Lanka. I am confident that our relations with Japan will go from strength to strength.
“I am aware that the Japan Sri Lanka Technical and Cultural Association is a non-profit service organisation and functions as the alumni of the Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship Japan. I am pleased to note that many Sri Lankan professionals and academics acquired their valuable skills and techniques from the training they received from many AOTS centres in Japan. I warmly compliment the Executive Committee and the membership of JASTECA for volunteering to disseminate knowledge and the expertise they gained in Japan to other fellow Sri Lankans through JASTECA and other frameworks.”
Nobuhito Hobo, Ambassador of Japan in Colombo, addressing the event, said: “I’d like to thank JASTECA for its close cooperation with the Embassy and all the support it gave with regard to celebration of the events. Developing the industrial sector is of vital importance for countries trying to sustain economic growth while addressing the balance of payments and living standards of the people. Moreover now that Sri Lanka has emerged as a middle income country it is vital that due emphasis is given to industrialisation, quality improvement and overall productivity. I hope this trade fair would provide a valuable opportunity for Sri Lankan industries and services to showcase their products and services to enhance marketability.”
Overseas Human Resources & Industry Development Association of Japan President Kazuo Kaneko addressing the event said: “JASTECA has gone a long way by training more than 3,000 Sri Lankans trainees in Japan, on technical and managerial aspects through AOTS now called HIDA. There are many success stories of AOTS Japan training. This training helped improve quality of products manufactured in Sri Lanka, thereby contributing to Sri Lanka’s economic growth. We at HIDA Japan are very proud of these achievements.”