Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama underscored Sri Lanka’s interest to further strengthen economic relations with South Korea, during a meeting with Korean Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategy and Finance Yoo Il-ho on 20 September in Seoul.
The Minister strongly welcomed more Korean investment in Sri Lanka’s growing economy, taking advantage of the island nation’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean with access to markets and value chains in the Indian subcontinent, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The Minister also apprised the Korean Deputy Prime Minister of the economic policy of the Sri Lankan Government, the fiscal and other reforms being undertaken by it, FTAs under negotiation and the establishment of industrial zones to attract foreign direct investment. Deputy Prime Minister Yoo welcomed these measures and expressed the Korean Government’s strong interest to enhance economic cooperation with Sri Lanka. Acknowledging that the Korea-Sri Lanka economic partnership has greater potential than was currently reflected, Deputy Prime Minister Yoo supported measures that would create more opportunities for Korean entrepreneurs to engage in Sri Lanka. He also welcomed upcoming high-level visits and the celebration of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2017.
In discussions with the Korean Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Kang Ho-in on 21 September, Minister Samarawickrama strongly welcomed the Korean Ministry’s engagement in the Megapolis and Western Development program in Sri Lanka within the framework of the MoU signed with the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development in May this year. The two Ministers discussed progress and ongoing collaboration on the megapolis program through the Korea Land and Housing Corporation, which has opened up a valuable opportunity for Korean companies to invest in Sri Lanka’s development drive.
Minister Samarawickrama also met with the Korean Vice Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Woo Taehee and discussed ways and means to further enhance bilateral trade which currently remains at a modest level. He welcomed the early conclusion of the proposed Agreement on Economic Cooperation between the two governments which would provide a framework for discussion on economic issues such as a Joint Working Group. Minister Samarawickrama also conveyed the interest of the Sri Lankan Government to enter into a Free Trade Agreement with Korea in the future.
He also referred to the need to forge closer cooperation between the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the two countries, including the exchange of more business visits. Vice Minister Woo referred to the significant potential that exists to expand the trade volume between the two countries and extended his support towards action being taken to further enhance trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.
At a meeting with the Chairman and President of the Korea EXIM Bank Dr. Lee Duk-Hoon, Minister Samarawickrama expressed the Sri Lankan Government’s deep appreciation of Korean development cooperation, with particular emphasis on loan assistance extended through the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) which supports key infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka.
The two parties agreed that development cooperation forms an important dimension of the countries’ bilateral relations and discussed means of elevating this partnership, including a consideration of increase in the EDCF funding arrangement in the context of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2017.
During the visit Minister Samarawickrama also met with the Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Kim Kyunghwan, Senior Secretary to the Korean President on Economic Affairs Kang Seok hoon, Chairman of the Korea Federation of SMEs (KBIZ) Park Sung Taek and Vice Chairman of the Korea Importers’ Association Kim Hyunmyung.
The Minister and his delegation also participated in a business meeting organised by KBIZ and attended by a cross-section of Korean businesses in manufacturing and industries, and several Korean industry cooperatives and associations.
The State Minister of Science, Technology and Research Lakshman Senewiratne, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to South Korea Manisha Gunasekera, Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade Secretary Chandanie Wijayawardhana, the Agency for the Development of Sri Lanka Managing Director Mangala Yapa, Board of Investment of Sri Lanka Director General Duminda Ariyasinghe and Minister Counsellor/Commercial of the Sri Lanka Embassy in Seoul Jagath Abeywarna were also present at the meetings.