Maldives- Sri Lanka to boost trade with Economic Commission

Wednesday, 22 January 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Uditha Jayasinghe Maldives President Abdulla Yameen attempted to boost trade with Sri Lanka by suggesting the establishment of an Economic Commission yesterday while kicking off his first visit to the island since assuming duties. Yameen on his arrival met with Sri Lanka External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L Peiris and Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and held extended talks over how to increase trade between the two nations. Both countries are set to sign several Memoranda of Understanding today on a variety of issues such as health, youth and skills development, sports, combating crime and police training. They will be signed between the two Presidents during their one on one and bilateral meetings on Wednesday morning. Maldives is currently Sri Lanka’s third largest trade partner in the south Asian region. “Let us re-start our Joint Economic Commission (JEC). JEC is a mechanism that can help to move forward in trade. Let’s also renew trade and it is time to go for a new approach in bilateral trade. Even tripartite free trade initiative within the South Asia Free Trade Agreement between India-Sri Lanka-Maldives is also a strong way to move forward,” Yameen said at the meeting. The president also pledged to push ahead with joint tourism marketing to promote both Sri Lanka and Maldives as one package. “We are keen on joint tourism packaging with Sri Lanka so that tourists coming to Maldives can also travel to Sri Lanka on the same package and vice-versa.” Maldives is the third largest trading partner of Sri Lanka among South Asian countries, after India and Pakistan. The value of total trade between the two countries stood at 68.53 million U.S. dollars. This is significantly behind 5 billion U.S. dollar trade with India who is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner in the region. Sri Lanka’s exports to Maldives was 52.41 million U.S. dollars 2012. The first Session of the Sri Lanka –Maldives Joint Commission was held in Male in April 2006 and following a recommendation made at this session, the Sri Lanka – Maldives Bilateral Business Council was formed in May 2007. “There is much unrealized trade potential between both countries. In order to strengthen trade relations, I wish to encourage frequent exchange of delegations between the two countries and renewal of JEC. Maldives could avail of our expertise in such fields as IT, education, accounting, medical services and ship/boat repairs. We encourage Maldives investors, especially in the fisheries sector,” Bathiudeen responded. Yameen will be hosted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa for a State banquet before wrapping up his visit on Thursday. A Sri Lanka- Maldives business forum was also organised to encourage trade between the neighbours and took place on Tuesday afternoon. The foreign ministers of the two countries also held separate talks. Among the specific issues discussed were co-operation in education, food security, economic and trade relations, supply of fruit and vegetables to the Maldives through Mattala airport, employment and collaboration in the defence and fisheries sectors. Prof. Peiris also gave his counterpart in the new government of the Maldives a comprehensive update on political and economic developments in Sri Lanka.