Fresh boost for Lanka-Sino ties with strongest biz team in town

Friday, 27 September 2013 04:08 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Booming Sino-Lanka ties have got a fresh impetus with the presence of the strongest-ever business delegation in town from China exploring new opportunities for investment and trade. A 36-member delegation led by Jia Guoyong, the Vice Director General of Chinese Trade Development Bureau (TDB), yesterday participated in a forum involving around 90 Lankan companies. The primary objective of the forum was to encourage dialogue between companies and explore prospects for partnerships. It also served as a platform to educate both sides on how best to make use of the proposed China-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA). In 2012, as a result of 20% increase in imports from China, bilateral trade gap between China and Sri Lanka stood at $ 2459.89 m, in favour of China. The forum was organised by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and TDB of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce along with the Chinese Embassy in Colombo. Out of 23 companies in the Chinese delegation were three Fortune 500 companies – Sinochem Group ($ 49.5 b revenue), China Minmetals ($ 37.5 b) and Sinosteel ($ 27.2 b). “From China’s perspective, our trade deficit with Sri Lanka is too large. Sri Lanka is an important South Asian partner for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka will be much, much more important to China in the future. We need immediate action to solve the trade imbalance between China and Sri Lanka,” announced Chinese Ambassador Wu Jianghao. “Trade with Sri Lanka is one of the focal points of our Embassy in Colombo. From China’s perspective, our trade deficit with Sri Lanka is too large. China politically stands firm in its support to Sri Lanka. We need immediate action to solve the trade imbalance between China and Sri Lanka. This delegation is the start in addressing the trade balance issue. The companies present here today are very powerful in Chinese markets. They are here with high expectations. Sri Lanka is an important South Asian partner for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka will be much more important to China in the future,” Jianghao added. Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen addressing the event, said: “Total trade between the two countries has increased to US$ 2,676 m in 2012, showing a steady growth from US$ 659 m in 2005. It is important to note here that these improvements are reflected in both directions in our bilateral trade. Sri Lanka’s exports to China although still at a comparatively lower levels, have increased from a mere $ 28 m in 2005 to US$ 108 m in 2012. We are also pleased to see that Sri Lanka is among the few countries in the Asian region, which recorded a positive export growth with China during the last few years. We export various items including coir products, apparel, minerals, tea and rubber tyres to China, which are immediately used by Chinese manufacturers and consumers. Exports from Sri Lanka to China under the APTA also have shown huge increases during last few years. “On the other hand, Sri Lanka’s imports from China recorded a dramatic surge from US$ 630 m in 2005 to US$ 2,568 m in 2012. Sri Lanka imports a range of products from China including capital goods, raw materials and consumer goods. These increasing trends are a clear indication of the huge potential that exists towards expanding our exports to the larger Chinese market. This is why that the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Sri Lanka and China, the greatest trade initiative of our committed President Mahinda Rajapaksa so far, is an unprecedented opportunity for the export and business communities of China as well as Sri Lanka. You may already be aware that the FTA is planned for this November ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.” Inviting the Chinese businesses to make use of Sri Lanka’s various regional FTAs, Minister Bathiudeen said: “I wish to convey that the bilateral Free Trade Agreements that we have with India and Pakistan, and several other regional agreements, such as South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), and provide duty free and highly preferential market access for products manufactured in Sri Lanka. This is definitely an opportunity for Chinese investors who are looking for business opportunities in these markets through their investments in Sri Lanka and I invite you to partner with Sri Lanka.” “China-Sri Lanka trade in the first half of 2012 stood at $ 1.9 b. Bilateral trade has been increasing steadily and we see huge potential for future trade cooperation,” said Jia Guoyong, the Vice Director General of Chinese Trade Development Bureau (TDB), addressing the event. He added: “China has formulated specified trade opportunities for all countries, especially Sri Lanka.  We want to strengthen our import structure and processes to expand our international trade. This event can build a platform of cooperation and promotion of our bilateral trade.” Ministry Secretary Anura Siriwardena said: “I am addressing you today after a successful completion of a trade, tourism and investment promotion program held in Beijing recently.  I would like say that the overwhelming reception we had there will certainly give us more and more strength to go for extra miles in our way forward. The friendship of our two countries has been elevated to its highest level with the recent visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to China. The Presidents of both countries had a historical discussion to expand the breadth and the depth of the relationship in areas of political, economic, defence, security and cultural spheres paving the way to a strategic cooperative dialogue between two nations. The discussions lead to the constitution of a Free Trade Agreement, to enhance mutual benefits of bilateral trade. The FTA will definitely increase the market access to China for Sri Lankan products such as apparels, tea, coir based products, rubber based products, gems and jewellery and light industry products, etc., while there will be an increase of market access in Sri Lanka for Chinese products such as heavy machinery and equipment.” The event also consisted of in-depth presentations to the visiting Chinese delegation by EDB (by Sujata Weerakoone, DG-EDB), BoI (by Renuka Weerakoone, Director), and Lanka-China Business Council (by Navindra Abeysekera – President). The presenters stressed the importance of Sri Lanka’s strategic location for Chinese manufacturers and revealed that setting up Chinese manufacturing in Sri Lanka can strengthen their value and supply chains giving much faster access to the South Asian and Middle Eastern markets. The 36-strong member Chinese delegation were from sectors such glass manufacture, mining/minerals, agriculture, polymer/petroleum bi-products, chemicals, and real estate. Among other visiting firms are Anhui Light Industries International Co. Ltd. (ALIC), Zibo Top  Arts, Zibo Honghan Trading, Shandong Hanbang Household Glassware, Zibo Unishine, XinHe Commerce and trade Refco Group, Hebel Kaifa Glassware, AVIC International Holding, CITIC International, Chinatex,  China National Township, Sinosteel Raw Materials, Sinochem Guangdong and Sinochem Plastics.