As trade between Sri Lanka and Iraq reported a huge tenfold rise, both bilateral trade partners are advancing the next joint sessions to as early as July 2013.
“I am pleased to inform you that we have had several successful outcomes from my recent official visit to Iraq. The eighth Joint Economic Commission between Sri Lanka and Iraq is now scheduled to take place in the first week of July 2013 in Baghdad,” announced Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce while addressing a special session held at the EDB premises to brief exporters on the outcome of his visit to Baghdad on 25-26 February.
The session was attended by his top officials including Anura Siriwardene, Secretary of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Dr. Yousuf Marikkar, Acting Chairman, EDB, P.D. Fernando, Director General of Department of Commerce, representatives from 35 Lankan exporter firms including Samson Rubber Industries, Akbar Bros, Jafferjee Bros, Anverally & Sons, George Steuart and Sierra Cables, and representatives from the Tea Exporters Association, Tea Board and the EDB. The seventh session of the Sri Lanka-Iraq Joint Committee for Economic and Technical Cooperation was successfully concluded in 2010 in Colombo in the presence of Iraqi Trade Minister Safa Al-Deen Al-Saafi and Minister Bathiudeen.
“The Federation of Iraqi Chambers of Commerce representing 18 Iraqi regional chambers was also very positive on developing trade with Lankan businesses. The chamber also informed us that they are keen to establish a Sri Lankan trade centre in Baghdad, preferably soon, so that Iraqi importers can discover what Sri Lanka has to offer to them,” Minister Bathiudeen said, and added: “I request the Lankan exporters to take Iraq seriously.”
Surging Iraq is billed to be a ‘very promising market’ as it is now projected to become the second largest global oil supplier by 2020 by the international oil industry. According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s trade with Iraq has been increasing over the past several years. The value of total trade between the two countries, which stood at US $ 8.72 million in 2003, has increased tenfold to US $ 87.28 million in 2012. The balance of trade has been in favour of Sri Lanka during the last 10 years. In 2012, Iraq became the fifth largest buyer of Sri Lankan tea after Russia, Iran, Syria and Turkey, absorbing $ 83 million worth of tea from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is the single largest tea supplying country to Iraq, claiming 60% of Iraqi tea imports in 2012 and almost 91% in 2011. However, Iraq is fifth largest Ceylon Tea buyer only in terms of Lanka’s direct exports to Iraq.
Meeting Minister Bathiudeen at the historic Baghdad landmark Ishtar Sheraton in Firdos Square, Baghdad on 25 February, the General Secretary of Federation of Iraqi Chambers of Commerce Abdul Hussein J.R. Mubaraka, said: “Rubber, agro, seafood and food products have a ready demand in Iraq, which Sri Lankan exporters can easily supply.”