BOC promotes Indo-Lanka FTA opportunities to customers

Tuesday, 2 July 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shabiya Ali Ahlam Attempting to increase the trade volume between Sri Lanka and India, the nation’s foremost commercial and Government bank, BOC on Saturday facilitated a seminar to educate its customers on the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. Bank of Ceylon (BOC) hosted for the first time to its trade customers a seminar of this nature so they can confidently penetrate into the Indian markets, which will also help uplift the economy of Sri Lanka. The seminar was conducted by Department of Commerce Assistant Director Alexi Gunasekara whilst gracing the occasion as the keynote speaker was High Commission of India Economic and Commercial Counselor V. Manish. Having noted the fact the export volume to India is not high as Sri Lanka would prefer it to be, BOC International Treasury and Investment Deputy General Manager P. A. Lionel said: “There are lot of opportunities opening up with India now and its time that we increased our trade relationship with the country.” Addressing a gathering of 80 customers of BOC, Manish pointed out that Indo Lanka bilateral trade has swelled to $ 5 billion and the two countries have agreed to double this trade volume within the next three years. “This is no doubt a challenging task, therefore it is important that both countries aim high,” he said. He emphasised that since India has an open economy with a growth rate of 5.3%, and a high proportion of middle-income level people, there is immense opportunity for Sri Lanka to plug into the country’s supply chain. Acknowledging shift in Sri Lanka’s trade pattern from European markets to Asian markets, Manish said the nation has to find ways and means to move its trade direction from markets such as the USA to India, which is closer and easier to trade with. “You need ask yourselves how best the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement can be used to suit your business. It is important that you identify products that you can supply to India by looking at the lower tariff plans presented in the FTA for have better returns,” expressed Manish. With most of Sri Lanka’s exports to India being concentrated in the four southern states, Manish advised exporters to venture into other states since there was immense potential. Sharing the sentiments of Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh, which is that the prosperity of India is with its neighbours, Manish stressed that the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement is formulated by taking into account the economy of the two countries, so that both are equally benefitted. Manish stated that although many have the opinion of the trade between India and Sri Lanka being off balance, he asserted that this was not the case. “In 2000, Sri Lanka’s exports to India were about $ 50 million. According to the Department of Commerce in India, in 2011 Lanka’s exports were $ 720 million. India today has become Sri Lanka’s largest import and export market. In that sense, your trade is more balanced with us,” he affirmed. Manish went on to say the trade deficit should not be the only measure used to understand the trade situation between the two countries. “Post 2003, the companies of both countries have started investing in each other’s economies. FDI had to be distributed from loan-based investments. You are looking at only the blue-chip companies that are doing well in India. The problem is that no one is talking about services. Therefore, the trade gap between the two countries is shown to be high, but this is not necessarily the case,” Manish said. Meanwhile, noting that when trading one should be well aware of the rules, regulations, and conditions laid out by the trading country, he stated the High Commission of India had made an effort to compile the scattered information regarding the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement to a hand book which is made available to those interested since 17 March 2013. The seminar was followed by a panel discussion, which addressed the issues of the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement put forward by the participants. In addition to Manish and Gunasekara, speakers of the panel included BOC DGM Corporate and Offshore Banking D. P. K. Gunasekera and BOC AGM Overseas Branches Ranjith Haputhanthri. Pix by Shantha Rathnayake