New chapter opens in Indo-Lanka trade

Thursday, 27 June 2013 02:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  •  First bilateral JTF concludes successfully
  • ‘Working to boost trade levels to $ 10 b’: Rishad
  • ‘We are very happy on the outcomes’: Rao
  • Bilateral trade at $ 4 b
As bilateral trade between the historic neighbours crossed $ 4 billion, a new chapter has opened in historic Indo-Lanka trade ties. Strong signs of greater Indian market access for keen Lankan exporters and prompt resolution of trade barriers for them are the latest developments in this turning point. “We are working to boost bilateral trade to $ 10 billion and as trade ties have improved greatly, the new understanding reached between both countries is a good sign for our bilateral trade future,” said the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 25 June in Colombo. Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the Indian Official Delegation led by S. R. Rao, the Indian Commerce Secretary, on 25 June at the EDB premises in Colombo. Indian Commerce Secretary Rao was accompanied to Sri Lanka by Indian DG Commerce Duleep Mehta and officials of Department of Commerce of India. Also present during the session were Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce Anura Siriwardena, Director General Department of Commerce P. D. Fernando, officials of Department of Commerce, Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha and Deputy High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka P. Kumaran among others. The bilateral trade between both countries totalled $ 4.087 billion in 2012 and in January to April 2013, it stood at $ 1.17 billion. During 2008, India allowed duty free entry for 3 million pieces of apparel products from Sri Lanka without any restrictions under ISFTA and in April 2013, the quota was increased to 8 million pieces. At the successful bilateral secretarial level commercial cooperation meeting on 24 June where the Indian delegation was led by the Indian Commerce Secretary S. R. Rao and the Sri Lankan delegation led by Dr. Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Planning P.B. Jayasundera together with Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce Anura Siriwardena, both countries agreed on a process of speedy, immediate solutions faced by exporters at both ends. As a result and henceforth, any Lankan exporter facing difficulties in Indian ports can immediately contact the Sri Lankan Department of Commerce for prompt resolution of the situation at hand. The understanding reached at the 24 June secretarial level meeting has resulted in prompt dispute resolution and removal of non-tariff-barriers faced by Lankan exporters accessing the promising Indian marketplace. On the evening of 24 June, Department of Commerce officials of both sides also successfully concluded the first ever Joint Task Force (JTF) meeting to be held between the two countries. In 2012, in order to pursue an effective plan of action to reap the maximum benefits out of the existing mechanism the two governments have formed a Joint Task Force (JTF) that will include both government officials and private sector representatives. The Sri Lankan team at the JTF was led by Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce Anura Siriwardena while Indian team was led by Joint Secretary South Asia Arvind Mehta. Apart from government officials, representatives from the private sector too joined the JTF sessions that continued successfully for more than two hours. Representatives from the Lanka National Chamber of Exporters, the Indo-Lanka CEO Forum as well as the Joint Apparel Association of Sri Lanka (JAAF) were in the Lankan team, while the Indian representatives were from the Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil), Ashok Leyland and Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) one of India’s leading infrastructure development and finance companies. During the 24 June’s first JTF session, both sides discussed in depth as to the ways and means of boosting trade cooperation to new levels. The Indian representatives focused, among others, on increasing investments and trade in Sri Lanka in textiles, pharmaceuticals and automotive component export manufacturing while the Sri Lankan representatives, in discussing their requirements, highlighted maximum utilisation the FTA and removal of export quotas. “We are very happy of the results of the meetings we held so far in Colombo,” revealed an upbeat Secretary Rao to Minister Bathiudeen. “The Joint Task Force (JTF) on bilateral trade also completed its first ever meeting on 24 June. The JTF has also decided to meet once in every three months. We are looking forward to the second JTF meeting in October or November this year,” Rao stressed. “We want to see Sri Lanka’s exports to India growing further. In fact we want to expand asymmetrical trade with the South Asian region and Sri Lanka is at the top of the list. In fact, South Asia is extremely important to us. It is only to South Asia that I travel with my own Minister,” Rao added. “The JTF model works well. This fruitful JTF meeting paved the way for agreements in principal on concepts to be implemented,” voiced a satisfied Secretary Siriwardena.