Indo, Lanka biz yearn for bigger boost

Wednesday, 21 November 2012 01:03 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • 13-member Confederation of Indian Industry team concludes successful visit
  • Productive talks with Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Senior Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama. Secretaries to Trade and Treasury, BOI and Ceylon Chamberof Commerce

A 13-member high-powered business mission from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) visited Colombo from 18-20 November 2012. This is the fourth business delegation from CII to visit Sri Lanka in the past one year.

The Business Mission was led by Adi Godrej, President of CII and Chairman of the Godrej Group.

The main areas of business interest of the delegation included consumer goods, IT/BPO, automobile sector, electronic and engineering products, air-conditioning and refrigeration, hydro power generation, wind energy, infrastructure, and real estate.

During the visit, the Indian business delegation had meetings with Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, Senior Minister of International Monetary Cooperation and Deputy Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Secretary to the Treasury Dr. P. B. Jayasundera, and Secretary to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Anura Siriwardena.

High Commissioner of India Ashok K. Kantha also received the business delegation and briefed them on various aspects of the business opportunities in Sri Lanka. The delegation also met officials at the Board of Investment and interacted with Indian CEOs based in Sri Lanka. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce organised a business-to-business meeting with the CII delegation.   

The other members of the delegation included Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry; Rahul Bajaj, Past President, Confederation of Indian Industry and Chairman, Bajaj Auto Limited; Sudhir Deoras, Deputy Chairman, CII (Eastern Region) and Managing Director, TRF Limited; S Chandrasekhar, Managing Director, Bhoruka Power Corporation Ltd.; V. K. Mathews, Chairman, CII Kerala State Council and Executive Chairman, IBS Software Services; Sunil Duggal, CEO, Dabur India Ltd.; Satish Jamdar, Managing Director, Blue Star Limited; Sunil Wadhwa, Chief Executive Officer, IL&FS Energy Development Company Ltd.; Shubh Shrivastava, Chief (Global Business and Strategy), The Tata Power Company Ltd.; Sangeeta Prasad, Chief Executive Officer, Mahindra World City; Sujith Haridas, Regional Director (Southern Region), Confederation of Indian Industry; and Manish Mohan, Director and Head South Asia, Confederation of Indian Industry.

Godrej, during the meeting with the Economic Development Minister Rajapaksa, underlined that Sri Lanka was a priority country for Indian industry and conveyed the interest of Indian industry to invest in the Sri Lankan economy and create capacity for export.

The Indian delegation assured its interlocutors that CII would work closely with the Sri Lankan side to develop various investment proposals and make efforts to disseminate information on the opportunities available in Sri Lanka among the members of Confederation of Indian Industry.

Godrej suggested that Indian companies should leverage the supportive policy environment provided by Sri Lanka to set up priority industries like pharmaceuticals, IT and tourism and hospitality.  

He said that CII would be happy to partner with the relevant institutions in Sri Lanka in the area of capacity-building and training of human resources at various centres of excellence run by CII.  He recalled the offer made earlier to train 200 Sri Lankan students at Infosys training facilities at Mysore, and requested the Government of Sri Lanka to expedite the finalisation of modalities and take advantage of the offer. CII also agreed to share its experience and expertise to promote rural entrepreneurship.

Welcoming the Indian delegation, Rajapaksa said that the Government of Sri Lanka has had useful meetings with the CII delegation in the past. He accepted the invitation extended by CII to lead a business delegation to participate in the Partnership Summit to be held in Agra from 27-29 January, 2013. The Partnership Summit will provide opportunities to the Government and businesses from Sri Lanka to showcase the trade and investment opportunities in Sri Lanka. CII also offered to organise a special session for Sri Lanka during the Partnership Summit.

During various other official and business meetings, the need for forging enhanced economic and trade relations between Sri Lanka and India was highlighted.

 Both the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and CII decided to undertake a study in a time-bound manner with the help of knowledge partners on each side, to identify specific areas under the Free Trade Agreement where both sides could work together.

During the interaction with the membership of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, both sides agreed on the rationale for closer economic integration, building on the progress achieved through the FTA and the need for intensive consultations towards developing a comprehensive framework for sustainable economic partnership. Both sides also acknowledged, contrary to what is generally believed, that the trade between the two countries in the tariff lines covered by the FTA is balanced.

The CII business delegation argued for early conclusion of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement between India and Sri Lanka, to take the economic relationship to the next level.

India is the largest trade partner of Sri Lanka. Trade between the two neighbors has surged eight times since 2000 when the bilateral Free Trade Agreement came into force. In 2000, the bilateral trade turnover amounted to just US$ 658 million. It crossed the US$ 5 billion mark in 2011-12.

India has regularly been among the top two investors in Sri Lanka and was the largest FDI source in 2011, with investments worth about US$ 150 million. The cumulative Indian investment into Sri Lanka since 2003 has crossed US$ 800 million.

Several Indian companies have planned investments in Sri Lanka in the coming years, including ITC Ltd., Tata Housing, Shree Renuka Sugars, Dabur India Ltd., etc. Indian companies like Godrej, Bajaj, Tata, and Dabur are household names in Sri Lanka. Likewise, investments by Sri Lankan companies in India too are surging, as Sri Lankan businesses take advantage of India’s dynamic economy and large market.

CII is a non-government, industry-led and industry-managed body representing over 8,100 organisations (direct membership) from the private and public sectors, SMEs and MNCs, and an indirect membership of over 90,000 companies from around 400 national and regional sectoral associations. It was founded 116 years ago and works closely with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce to foster business and economic linkages between the two countries.

FT Key Take