The Ministry of Development Strategy and International Trade and the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka conducted for the second time a dialogue with the European Union Embassy and embassies of representative countries of the Union.
The European Union delegation was led by H E Tun Lai Margue, Ambassador of the European Union to Sri Lanka who was assisted by representatives of other EU members states.
The countries represented were France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK but also included representatives from Bulgaria, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Denmark who are posted in New Delhi but accredited to Sri Lanka. Also participating were senior officials of the EU based in New Delhi.
The Sri Lankan side was led by Hon. Malik Samarawickrama Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade who was assisted by Mrs. Chandanie Wijayawardhana, Secretary, Ministry of Development Strategies & International Trade, Mr. Upul Jayasuriya, Chairman of the Board of investment of Sri Lanka, Mr Duminda Ariyasinghe, Director General of the BOI and Mrs. Indira Malwatte, Chairperson of the Export Development Board.
Furthermore a number of important Sri Lankan institutions dealing with investors and other economic issues were also present at the meeting. These included among many others a number of important Ministries such as the Foreign Ministry and Health Ministry, and vital institutions such as the BOI, Customs and Inland Revenue Department.
Hon. Malik Samarawickrama welcomed the delegation and thanked the European Union and represented countries for all the support given with regard to Sri Lanka’s expected regaining of the GSP+ advantages.
The Minister stated that it was very hard to get this concession and that Sri Lanka was very pleased to be able to regain the advantages of the GSP+. He expressed his appreciation to the diplomatic missions present.
The Minister also stated that Sri Lanka Government was now implementing a development strategy that was private sector led. He added that the country’s economic development was characterized by a strong commitment to be inclusive with regards to all parts of the Island and also to uphold the highest standards of good governance.
Samarawickrama also stated that in its plan for development, the Government of Sri Lanka accorded the highest importance to promoting FDI since it would play an important role in development and uplifting the standard of living in the country.
Considerable priority was given to the development of skills in parts of the country such as the Northern Province and the Monaragala District as well as other areas where this would be most needed.
He added that Sri Lanka in addition to strengthening ties with the European Union was also building up important connections with the leading Asian powers, namely China, India and Japan. At a policy level the Minister spoke of reforms in the monetary field and also in the labour area.
He expected considerable progress and achievement in 2017 and was confident that Sri Lanka would emerge as a good location for FDI. Currently the country volume of trade with the European Union was approximately US$ 4 billion.
However, with the expected regaining of the GSP+ no less than 6,000 products made in Sri Lanka may be exported duty free to the European Union.
Hence Sri Lanka was now looking at new ways of creating more competitive goods.
Samarawickrama also spoke of the Government’s interest to develop FTZs and of formulating a new incentive package, adding that Sri Lanka would allow a more liberalized regime for trade and investments.
The Minister also stated that Sri Lanka was looking at a more liberalize Visa entry system for investors and professionals connected to foreign investments in order to bring in skilled managers for investment projects. Another area earmarked for reform was land alienation
Samarawickrama also stated that Sri Lanka had developed mechanisms to deal with complex issues relating to investment at the level of the Cabinet since these matters were taken up weekly. A number of other important issues development were on the cards including assessing possibilities of manufacturing new products in the country which would be high tech resulting in higher value exports.
Sri Lanka was also seeking to strengthen her free trade Agreements within the course of this year. Samarawickrama spoke of FTAs with Singapore scheduled to be finalized in June – July 2017 and another with China expected around by the end of the year. Furthermore Sri Lanka was also strengthening her economic relation with India.
This was done with the objective of developing Sri Lanka as an excellent hub for trade between the important economic centres in the region.
When GSP+ is regained Sri Lanka’s goods would have access to some of the most important markets in the world.
The Minister stated that Sri Lanka’s objective should be to double her exports, currently valued at US$ 11 billion by 2020.
The European Union Ambassador H E Tun Lai Margue thanked the Minister for sharing an insight into the Government’s future plans. He added that this meeting was very significant because it also included the representatives of the European Union accredited to Sri Lanka but based in India from Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary and Greece. He added that Sri Lanka was likely to regain GSP+ within a short time and he was keen to obtain an assurance that EU enterprises are accorded fair access to the Sri Lankan market.
The focus of the meeting was to look at issues faced by EU Companies based in Sri Lanka as well as to examine ways in which the relations could be taken further.
Towards the end of the meeting, individual EU companies addressed the forum and presented their issues and provided feedback on their experiences as investors in Sri Lanka
The meeting was very significant since it provided a platform in which Sri Lanka discussed important issues relating to the European Union which is the country’s single largest market for exports and one of the leading sources for FDI.
Dilip S Samarasinghe
Director (Media & Publicity)