Sri Lanka’s strategic location is important for foreign businesses

16 September 2019 - 316   - 0

Sri Lanka has a Free Trade Agreement with Pakistan and is negotiating a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with China, Thailand and Bangladesh.

By Jayampathy Jayasinghe

Sri Lanka has a Free Trade Agreement with Pakistan and is negotiating a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with China, Thailand and Bangladesh.

“We have access to one billion people in India with our Free Trade Agreement and will soon have a comprehensive agreement to cover investment and services,” said the Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama, who was the Chief Guest at the inauguration of the Sri Lanka Investment and Business Conclave 2019 held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo on Monday.

“Foreign businesses located in Sri Lanka will have access to a market of 3.5 billion people on preferential terms and Sri Lanka is one of the few countries in the world to claim this. Sri Lanka is strategically located in the growing region with access to unparalleled markets in the South Asia region, Europe and the United States with a talented workforce willing to do business with the world,” the Minister said.

The business conclave in Colombo was attended by 80 foreign delegates from 22 countries. An agreement has been signed last year with Singapore that included goods and services, investment, e-commerce, government procurement, telecommunications, financial services and economic co-operation.

The government has also removed preferential par -tariffs on 1200 items and the rest will be removed by 2020. With the passing of years, Sri Lanka is becoming an interesting place for businesses with so many new initiates undertaken by the government to stabilise businesses.

“There are ample business opportunities available in Sri Lanka and the government’s commitment is to welcome foreign investors to succeed here. Sri Lanka has preferential access to GSP + trade concessions on 6000 tariff lines. Sri Lanka will soon have an electronic window that will link state agencies with international trade,” the minister said.

Meanwhile the Colombo Port is rated as the 13th best connected port and 23rd best port in the world. Trade costs are kept low with highly trained terminal operators. The Hambantota, Trincomalee and Colombo Ports can cater to large ships to berth in these ports. New industrial zones will be prepared with two new investors zones being opened close to Colombo. A new logistical zone is being prepared at Hambantota.

IFC Country Manager Sri Lanka and Maldives Ms. Amena Arif said Sri Lanka is the fastest growing region in the word and busiest trade routes in the world. The country is uniquely positioned to serve as the regional hub. She said the most important investment the country needs is to build a human capital base.  Sri Lanka’s GDP came mainly from the Small and Medium Enterprise Sector.

Women’s participation in the labour market is extremely low. “We are currently working on the solar power sector s in the country,” she said. The key note address was made by Chairman of Unilever Sri Lanka Carl Cruz while Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the Port City Colombo Liang Thow Ming also spoke.

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