First Sri Lanka-Russia Intergovernmental Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Science and Technical Cooperation takes place in Moscow
The first official Sri Lanka-Russia trade talks were successfully concluded in Moscow on 12 February. The talks covered a wide array of topics, with the Russian side showing specific interest in agricultural cooperation.
The Sri Lanka-Russia Intergovernmental Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Science and Technical Cooperation is one of the primary mechanisms to discuss ways to resolve various issues and boost bilateral trade and scientific and technical cooperation. The sessions, initiated and organised by the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, began on 10 February and concluded on 12 February.
Industry and Commerce Secretary T.M.K.B. Thennakoon led the Sri Lankan delegation joined by Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Russian Federation Dr. Saman Weerasinghe, and Director General of Commerce Sonali Wijeratne. The Russian side was led by Deputy Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation and the Head of the Federal Agency for Fishery Ilya Shestakov and Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Sri Lanka Alexander A. Karchava.
“The launch of the Intergovernmental Commission mechanism between Sri Lanka and Russia will improve the efficiency of bilateral trade and economic, scientific and technical cooperation due to its systemic outlook. We like more fishery products as well as fruits and vegetables from Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan fruits and vegetables are no threat to Russian farmers,” said Minister Shestakov.
Egypt has become a leading supplier of fruits and vegetables to Russia.
The talks spanned a wide array of relevant topics - trade, investment, education, industry, customs, technical issues and science - with the Russian side showing an extra interest in agricultural cooperation. During the bilateral talks, Shestakov stressed the importance of establishing a joint working group within the agriculture sphere to further develop the bilateral relations between the countries. Shestakov also expressed Russia’s interest in buying more seasonal fruits, vegetables and fishery products from Sri Lanka, adding that Russian cereals could be attractive to the Lankan market.
Sources said that the official process for draft agreements for cooperation in the fields of science, technology, innovation and customs, called for by the Sri Lankan side, have also taken off at the Moscow sessions.
According to Russian federal Customs data, bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Russia in 2015 stood at $ 437 million. According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, total trade between Sri Lanka and Russia has been growing significantly since the disintegration of the former Soviet Union in 1991.
Sri Lankan exports to Russia in the first nine months of 2015 stood at $ 152 million while imports amounted to $ 161 million.
Currently, Sri Lanka’s major export item to Russia is tea, which accounts for nearly 85% of total exports. Other items that Sri Lanka exports to Russia are apparel, activated carbon, rubber and industrial gloves, coconut fibres, paper or paperboard labels, mattress supports and retreated or used tires plastics.
Sri Lanka’s imports from Russia have shown a positive trend during the past few years with the major imports from Russia being the semi-finished products of coal, iron, wheat, fertilisers, asbestos, paper, paper board products and self-adhesive plates (Potassium Chloride).
Industry and Commerce Secretary T.M.K.B. Thennakoon (right) and Russian Deputy Minister of Agriculture and the Head of the Federal Agency for Fishery, Ilya Shestakov (left) exchange the agreed minutes of the first Sri Lanka-Russia Intergovernmental Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Science and Technical Cooperation in Moscow