Fresh boost to Sri Lanka, Pakistan business ties

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  • 33rd RCCI International Achievement Awards and Pakistan Sri Lanka Business Opportunities Conference held in Colombo 

The High Commission of Pakistan in Colombo organised the 33rd RCCI International Achievement Awards and Pakistan Sri Lanka Business Opportunities Conference, in collaboration with the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (RCCI) – the third largest chamber of Pakistan – on 23 November in Colombo. 

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa graced the International Achievement Awards ceremony as its Chief Guest and presented awards to leading entrepreneurs from Pakistan.

During his address, Rajapaksa fondly recalled the visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to Sri Lanka in February this year, reflecting the warmth and goodwill between the governments and peoples of the two countries. The Prime Minister highlighted that the visit had further strengthened the broad-based longstanding cooperation between the two friendly countries across various sectors such as trade and investment, culture, science and technology, and defence.

Rajapaksa also highlighted the historical ties between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, further strengthened by the vast and rich Buddhist heritage preserved in various parts of Pakistan. He particularly mentioned the state-of-the-art documentary ‘Gandhara: The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan,’ launched by the High Commission of Pakistan in association with Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs in Sri Lanka at the Temple Trees earlier this month.

Following the highly successful Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Conference held on 24 February, on the side lines of Khan’s visit to Sri Lanka, the High Commission of Pakistan in Colombo facilitated a visit of around 100 business representatives of Pakistan from RCCI.

Minister of Trade Dr. Bandula Gunwardena was invited as the Chief Guest and State Minister for Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasuriya graced the event as Guest of Honour. 

Speaking on the occasion, the Trade Minister warmly welcomed Pakistan’s initiative in enhancing bilateral trade, investment and economic cooperation and underscored the longstanding warm relations between the two countries. The Trade Minister highlighted that the Free Trade Agreement between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, a key trading partner of Sri Lanka, had contributed substantially to expanding bilateral trade between the two countries. However, sustained efforts are required to ensure that the FTA is utilised more effectively, he added. He highlighted that efforts were underway to further develop Sri Lankan brands and products to enhance their access to Pakistan.

The Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan in Sri Lanka Tanvir Ahmad underlined that Sri Lanka enjoyed the exceptional position of being the first country with which Pakistan entered into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which he said showed the expectations that Pakistan has in its economic potential and the common desire of the leadership of Pakistan and Sri Lanka for continued socio-economic development of their peoples. He emphasised the need to cement relations further through enhancing mutually beneficial joint ventures and economic cooperation in high potential sectors of trade and investment, within the ambit of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (PSFTA).

The Acting High Commissioner also emphasised that the Government of Pakistan was committed to unlocking the immense trade potential with Sri Lanka by proactively engaging in deeper economic cooperation as part of the government’s strategic trade policy. The importance of jointly utilising the opportunities presented by China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project in reaching the Central Asian markets and beyond was also highlighted.

Pakistan Commercial Secretary Asmma Kamal presented a detailed analysis of Pakistan-Sri Lanka trade with an emphasis on high potential sectors, challenges and way forward in realising the true potential of bilateral trade. She emphasised that trade in services and investment must be included in the bilateral FTA to broaden the scope of economic relations. She highlighted that the objective of the Conference was to follow-up, build and strengthen linkages on a chamber-to-chamber level and between individual businesses in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which must be encouraged frequently in the future as well.

The Trade and Investment Wing of the High Commission of Pakistan in Colombo facilitated business-to-business meetings of Pakistani delegates across sectors, including pharmaceuticals, real estate and construction materials, auto parts, HVAC, textiles and garments, tourism, logistics and cargo, agricultural commodities with investors, and importers and exporters in Sri Lanka. 

Two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were also facilitated between the (RCCI), the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and the Federation Chamber of Commerce & Industry Sri Lanka (FCCISL), while nine MoUs were signed between individual business counterparts from Pakistan and Sri Lanka across sectors including pharmaceuticals, automobiles, education, etc. The events were held as per prevailing COVID-19 protocols and regulations in Sri Lanka.