11th Joint Trade meet starts tomorrow as Govt. mulls return to oil imports
Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian with Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen at the Bandaranaike International Airport yesterday. Iranian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Mohammed Zaeri Amirani is also present
Ahead of the Sri Lankan Government kick starting talks to resume oil imports a top 30-member Iranian delegation arrived in Colombo on Sunday to discuss stronger engagement and investment.
“In our new era, we want closer cooperation with Sri Lanka,” announced Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchianlast afternoon at the Bandaranaike International Airport.
The historic Iranian delegation arrived in Colombo by EK 654, a day ahead of the original schedule, and consists of members from both Government and the Iranian private sector as well as Iran’s biggest Chamber.
Both countries are set to commence the 11th Joint Commission for Economic Co-operation (JCEC) sessions tomorrow (24) in Colombo. During the meet, Sri Lanka is looking for ways to increase exports to Iran while the Iranian team is looking to renew a multi-tiered trade cooperation approach with Sri Lanka.
Among the Iranian firms in the delegation are MAPNA (railroads and locomotive supplier), FARAB (heavy infrastructure including reservoirs) and SUNIR (electrification and mega-scale engineering projects) as well as Iran’s biggest chamber, the Iranian Industry, Mines & Trade Chamber.
Several reps in the delegation are from Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum, and the State-owned petroleum giant, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). The delegation, with Iranian Ambassador in Colombo Mohammed ZaeriAmirani, is scheduled to visit the Uma Oya project funded by the Export Development Bank of Iran.
According to the Department of Commerce, bilateral trade between the two countries surpassed $ 1 billion in 2011 (at $ 1.6 b) and in 2012 two-way trade totalled $857.81 m. Trade declined thereafter due to unconditional decrease of imports from Iran and as a result, last year’s total bilateral trade stood at $170 m. Sri Lanka used to import its petroleum requirements from Iran till 2012 (50,000 barrels a year), and after the sanctions took effect in 2012, total trade declined to $660 m from 2011’s $1.4 b.
Minister Bathiudeen, who officially welcomed the delegation as the Minister of Commerce of Sri Lanka, said: “The Government of Sri Lanka led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warmly welcomes you. We are ready to re-commence our trade with post-sanctions Iran. This is a new beginning. I visited Iran twice during the time of sanctions. Despite sanctions Iranians supported Sri Lanka during its war and we are thankful to the people of Iran. We warmly welcome the official delegation from Tehran for this year’s Joint Commission Talks here.”
“We bring warm greetings from the people of Iran,” said Chitchian. “Post-sanctions Iran is transparent and ready to do business with the world. In our new era, we want closer cooperation with Sri Lanka. During the coming days, we are looking to meet with several Government ministers as well.”
Last year’s top Lankan exports to Iran (Jan-Sept) were tea ($91 m – 86% of exports to Iran), coconuts and other nuts ($10 m) and paper boxes. Imports from Iran totalled $7.1 m only and were led by electrical insulators, screws/bolts/nuts, structured parts, pumps for liquid, earth moving machinery and dates.