A delegation from China led by Hon. Sui Zhong Cheng, Vice Governor of Jilin Province consisting of 33 officials and entrepreneurs from that province visited the BOI with the purpose of exploring avenues for trade and investment. The delegation was welcomed by Mr. Upul Jayasuriya BOI Chairman and Mr. Duminda Ariyasinghe Director General. Mrs. Indira Malwatte, Chairperson of the Export Development Board was also present. BOI had organized a roundtable conference where the high powered delegation from China met senior officials of the BOI and Export Development Board.
Jilin is a strategically located Province of North Eastern China bordering Russia and North Korea. It is an industrialized province with a GDP of about US$122 billion and a per capita income of US$8200.
Mr. Jayasuriya briefed to the visiting delegation on the history of the BOI, which was established in 1978 with mandate to attract investment into the country. He added that Sri Lanka welcomes all investments including those from China.
The Chairman also added that China’s position is unique in Sri Lanka as steps have been taken to establish a dedicated Export Processing Zone for Chinese enterprises and for the management of Hambantota Harbour and Airport to be undertaken by Chinese enterprises. He further described the longstanding ties between Sri Lanka and China. For example both countries have a long Buddhist tradition and this has resulted in cultural similarities. Furthermore both are tea producers which is an integral part of the culture both countries.
At a diplomatic level they have been many visits by the highest level officials of both countries to Sri Lanka and China. In recent years both the President and the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka had made official visits to China resulting in increased economic co-operation between the two countries. Furthermore Chinese President Xi Jinping has also visited Sri Lanka on a State Visit in recent years.
Jayasuriya said “a rise in Chinese investments in Sri Lanka is well on its way, and Sri Lanka can offer smooth handling of investment, since key areas such as customs, exchange control and immigration are now under one roof, namely the BOI. Furthermore, Sri Lanka does have a capable workforce which can be employed in many industries.”
The Chairman also stated that currently the largest number of delegations visiting Sri Lanka for investment are those from different provinces of China who are exploring options for investment.
A presentation in Chinese language was done by Mr. Vipula Jayasinghe Senior Deputy Director (Promotion – China Desk Officer) for the visiting delegation.
The Chinese delegation was also briefed by Ms. Indira Malwatte Chairperson of the Export Development Board, who added that Sri Lanka is actively seeking to expand her exports to China. She stated that there will soon be an opportunity for both countries to access each other’s markets when a Free Trade Agreement is reached between Sri Lanka and China. This agreement is now been discussed, but when completed Chinese companies will enjoy market access to South Asia through the Free Trade Agreements that Sri Lanka has already entered into with India and with Pakistan.
In the future Sri Lanka is expected to enter into another FTA with Singapore. Hence Sri Lanka is a well integrated nation in the Asian region in terms of market access.
The leader of the delegation Mr Sui Zhong Cheng Vice Governor of Jilin Province also addressed the gathering. He stated that Sri Lanka is an important country for China for the “One Road One Belt” Strategic Initiative of the People’s Republic of China. Under this initiative China was building an extensive link to countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe on the historic Silk Route.
Sri Lanka is expected to sign very soon a trade agreement with China. However, the traditional friendship between Sri Lanka and China is much more deeply rooted and therefore is expected to grow very much further. He added that many key industries of China are located in Jilin Province and some of these companies are represented in the delegation. For example the First Automotive Works which manufactures Red Flag Limousine is based in Jilin.
Furthermore, the Jilin province is also a leader in the manufacture of railway vehicles. In fact China’s biggest railway manufacturing plant is in Jilin Province which also has an advanced high speed railway network. Vice Governor Sui Zheng Chen also stated that a high speed railway network could be very relevant to Sri Lanka and would significantly contribute to develop the country’s economy.
Another strength of Jilin is in the area of Agriculture and Agro industries.
The Vice Governor further stated that whilst Jilin Companies were exploring the possibility of investing Sri Lanka, Jilin was also being promoted in China as a province for investment. He added that it is important to look at two way investment between Sri Lanka and China.
During their visit the delegation was studying Sri Lanka’s business climate to explore avenues for investment. Thereafter an interactive session between the BOI and individual companies began and some of the companies present were engaged in manufacturing of fertilizers, the construction of pipelines, property development and value added tea.
One of the Companies represented was engaged in the construction of the famous Birds Nest, the Iconic stadium of the Beijing Olympics. Hence this meeting could offer a potential for future investment from China’s Jilin Province.