New Silk Road crucial for Sri Lanka’s development: President

Monday, 15 September 2014 00:30 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Xinhua: President Mahinda Rajapaksa has hailed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative, saying the economic corridor bears significance to the Sri Lanka’s development. The President said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua at Temple Trees that his country would join China’s efforts in Silk Road trade cooperation. Rajapaksa said Xi’s scheduled visit in Sri Lanka, which would be the first by a Chinese president over the past 28 years, is “important” for the development of bilateral ties. He said the two nations had a history of friendly relations and the friendship was ushered into a new era since they upgraded ties to strategic cooperative partnership in May last year. “Since I took office as President, I have toured China seven times, during which I have met President Xi Jinping on several occasions,” Rajapaksa said. “China is the frequent destination among my working travel destinations and I am looking forward to President Xi’s visit.” Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka wished to boost cooperation with China in trade and investment, which is in harmony with the framework of the 21st Century Silk Road. The two nations, since Sri Lanka ended the decades-long conflict in 2009, have effectively cooperated in reconstruction and other sectors, the President added. Chinese enterprises have been carrying out a number of infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka and the President praised this as having had a positive impact on Sri Lanka’s social stability and prosperity.

 China-Lanka FTA a big boost

On the planned Free Trade Agreement (FTA) dialogue, President Rajapaksa said: “Our cooperation covers many sectors, including industry, energy, technology, infrastructure and tourism.” He said the FTA would boost trade and investment ties as well as Sri Lanka’s exports to China, creating new momentum for the country’s development. The President said Sri Lanka welcomes more Chinese visitors to tour Sri Lanka. China is Sri Lanka’s third largest source of tourists. The number of Chinese visitors in Sri Lanka stood at 82,000 in the first eight months of the year, seeing a year-on-year rise of 141%. The figure is predicted to surpass 100,000 at the end of this year.