9th round of Sri Lanka-China bilateral political consultations successfully concludes in Colombo
Saturday, 3 May 2014 00:00
The 9th round of the bilateral political consultations between Sri Lanka and China was convened at the Ministry of External Affairs on 24 April 2014, co-chaired by Liu Zhenmin, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and Kshenuka Senewiratne, Secretary, External Affairs. The multi-dimensional and deep-rooted bilateral partnership between the two countries was extensively reviewed during the consultations with special focus on extending the scope for cooperation for mutual benefit.
With the elevation of bilateral relations to a Strategic Cooperative Partnership during the state visit to China of the President in May 2013, the mandate for engagement between the two countries has been expanded, particularly in the four pillars of political, defence and security, economy and culture.
The Chinese side thanked Sri Lanka for the support extended to the Maritime Silk Route (MSR) initiative proposed by the Chinese leadership, which advocates harnessing primarily economic cooperation in the Maritime Silk Route belt.
The visiting Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs reiterated that through the implementation of this concept, both countries would benefit in a number of key areas including fisheries and shipping. China proposed to convene an oceanography seminar and deepen cooperation in maritime science environment protection, and intimated interest to increase investments targeting the development of the Hambantota Port and its vicinity.
Reviewing the present status of bilateral relations, both Sri Lanka and China agreed to institute a mechanism to convene a Joint Commission, headed by the two Foreign Ministers and to initiate an annual defence dialogue.
Improving trade balance
With a view to redressing the negative trade balance vis-à-vis Sri Lanka, the Chinese side expressed their fullest commitment to expedite the finalization of the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA). With the realisation of this FTA, apart from enhancing market access for local products, Sri Lanka expects to carve out a mutually beneficial partnership with China in technology transfers, value chain development and also in Research and Development (R&D). The Chinese side also expressed appreciation for Sri Lanka’s support pledged for the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, as a founder member.
The Chinese side responded positively to the proposal to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on consular consultations between Sri Lanka and China with a view to ensuring cooperation on of consular matters between the two countries.
Furthermore, it was also agreed to strengthen cooperation in areas such as culture and tourism promotion. Sri Lanka, during the consultations, has promised to extend her fullest support for the proposed establishment of the Chinese Cultural Centre at the BMICH premises. In relation to tourism, the Chinese side informed that the proposed documentary entitled ‘Enchanting Sri Lanka’ undertaken by CCTV, would create greater awareness of Sri Lanka among the Chinese people and thereby attract more Chinese tourists to visit Sri Lanka. The visiting dignitary also met with the Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris on the same day and expressed China’s fullest support for upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, while denouncing the interventionist agenda of certain countries triggered by political motives.
The Minister, in response, commended the assistance given by China to Sri Lanka as “an all weather friend” at all times. Zhenmin later paid a courtesy call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The visiting Vice Foreign Minister stated that China looks forward to receiving the President of Sri Lanka in Shanghai for the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building (CICA) scheduled on 20 and 21 May this year. It was also mentioned that the First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa will also visit China in mid-October this year on an invitation extended by the All-China Women’s Federation.
The Chinese delegation left Sri Lanka on 26 April at the end of a highly successful visit, which served to underscore the warm and cordial relations between the two countries.