British investors are keen on investing in Sri Lanka’s new phase and are specifically eyeing Sri Lanka’s tourism sector. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has invited strong business and industry delegations from UK to Sri Lanka’s Expo 2012 show.
“Sri Lanka’s tourism sector is very promising with good potential,” said James Wharton, the visiting British MP. Wharton was paying a courtesy call on Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on Tuesday 3 January at the Ministry premises at Colombo 3.
Accompanying Wharton on the two member UK Parliamentary delegation was his Political Advisor Chris Duggan.
“I believe that prospects in Sri Lanka Tourism are very high. We had discussions on Sri Lanka tourism in London among us, especially on improving Sri Lanka’s image in UK,” Wharton revealed.
Minister Bathiudeen responded: “British investors are invited to invest in our tourism, agro, infrastructure, and industries. A shortfall of hotel rooms while a tourism boom takes place opens opportunities for British construction firms here. Also, using Sri Lanka as a base, they can export to India by taking advantage of the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement. More than 4,000 product lines are now open for British investors under the Indo-Lanka FTA.”
Addressing the British duo, he added: “Sri Lanka’s IT sector has very high potential along with strong capacity for BPO and KPOs. The BPO sector is open for high value addition process. Sri Lanka is also becoming a strong logistical and a maritime hub. Sri Lanka provides a friendly environment for British investors as a result of the development vision of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We also strongly encourage investments in the north and east. I invite strong business and industry delegations from UK to our mega export show Sri Lanka Expo 2012 to be held in March in Colombo. This show is being held after a lapse of over 15 years.”
According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s trade with UK has recorded a considerable increased during the years 2001-2008. The value of total trade between the two countries registered at US$ 1287.3 m in 2010, increased by 0.8% over the previous year.
The trade balance between the two countries has been in favour of Sri Lanka during the last 10 years, mainly due to increase in the exports of textile and apparel to UK on zero duty under the GSP Plus arrangements.
Among major Sri Lankan exports to the UK are apparel and clothing accessories, fish fillet and fish meat (fresh, chilled or frozen), bicycles, food preparations, tea and gloves. Fresh and frozen fish from Sri Lanka to the UK is a new export trend and it increased by 3.5% in 2010 over 2009. Sri Lanka’s total exports to UK stood at $ 947.59 m in 2010.
Responding to Minister Bathiudeen’s investment call, Wharton stressed: “Sri Lanka should send the message to the Diaspora that if they invest here, their investments will be secure. This will give a positive sign for British investors looking to invest here.”
The UK is one of the major investors in Sri Lanka. British companies have invested in Sri Lanka in diverse areas such as textiles, garments and accessories, electronic products, security printing, tourism, infrastructure development, rubber based products, activated carbon, prawn farming, agriculture, food processing, computer software development and data entry services and business, financial and educational services.
Leading British-based companies in Sri Lanka are Unilever, British Tobacco, Glaxo Limited, Smith Kline Beecham, Brook Bonds/Lipton, Lloyds of London, Courtaulds Textile Plc, Oxley Threads, Coats Viyella, Marks & Spencer, P&O Navigation Company and Thomas de La Rue.
Sri Lankan High Commissioner for Britain Dr. Chris Nonis, who was also present along with Minister Bathiudeen, said: “We have a conducive macroeconomic environment, which is drawing higher FDI volumes. The ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ vision also focuses on pro-poor policies and the reduction of the urban-rural gap.”
Also present during the courtesy call were SLEDB Director General Sujatha Weerakoon, Director of Commerce Nimal Karunathilleke and Assistant Director of Commerce D.D. Premaratne.