At the fifth Asia Pacific Trade and Investment Week that was held from 13 October to 3 November in Bangkok, included the Committee on Trade and Investment beginning its deliberations on 31 October, the State Minister of International Trade of Sri Lanka Sujeewa Senasinghe was unanimously appointed the Vice Chairman of the Fifth Session of the Committee.
At the inauguration was the launch of the Asia Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2017: ‘Channelling Trade and Investment into Sustainable Development’ which served as the resource document for the deliberations. The Committee session sought to review the role of trade and trade policy as drivers of regional integration and prosperity in an era of economic uncertainty.
At the discussions the promotion of trade facilitation, paperless trade and electronic commerce, investment, enterprise development for sustainable development, and the future focus of the trade and investment sub program where the central issues.
Subsequent to the inauguration of the Committee, a panel session was conducted dealing with ‘Channelling Trade and Investment into Sustainable Development’. State Minister Senasinghe served as one of its distinguished panellists. He pointed out the timelines in launching the Asia Pacific Trade and Investment Report. He outlined that the current coalition government in collaboration with the main parties of Sri Lanka, had laid a solid foundation for economic development by emphasising the importance of good governance, rule of law, transparency, and zero tolerance of corruption. He referred to the President’s commitment that Sri Lanka should achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
With the strategic location of Sri Lanka, the State Minister promoted the country’s future roles as a manufacturing hub and as the gateway to South Asia through the development of harbours at Colombo, Hambantota and Trincomalee. He explained to those present, that 20,000 acres of land in the country will be allocated for developing industrial zones.
Sri Lanka is negotiating trade agreements with China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement with India. He also stated that Sri Lanka had successfully ended the fisheries ban and regained the GSP+ facility from the EU. The Minister said these developments have laid a solid foundation for multilateral trade.
He opined that Sri Lanka is moving forward in terms of growth, literacy rate, beauty and the prevailing peaceful environment in the country. Sri Lanka was becoming a model for the region by seeking to achieve a 7.5% growth rate by 2020.The State Minister further stated that women empowering programmes are being implemented by providing training, capital, IT literacy, financial facilities and seeking the opening of market opportunities. He said that Sri Lanka envisages to achieve energy sufficiency from renewable energy sources by 2050.
Under Secretary General of UN and Secretary General of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar in her opening remarks at the inaugural session stated that economic activities related to trade and investment at the global level have put pressure on the environment, and thereby developed further inequalities. She highlighted the need of targeted trade and investment policies in order to reverse this trend. The State Minister chaired the first session of the afternoon discussions of the committee.
A workshop titled ‘Regional Consultation on e-Commerce for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific’ preceded the Trade and Investment Committee Session. State Minister Senasinghe also participated in this workshop. He observed that the advancement in technology and connectivity through internet has changed lives of people, and that e-Commerce in Sri Lanka is growing and transforming the nature of commercial activities. The Minister stated that the government has provided greater legal validity for e-Commerce and e- Business providers, and pointed out that the differences in level of advancement of digital developments in the Asia-Pacific region could be removed through regional collaboration and cooperation and by transferring know how and technology. Further he expressed the need for the workshop to discuss the opportunities and challenges in leveraging the digital economy and e-commerce for sustainable development.
State Minister Senasinghe also met with the Under Secretary General of UN and Secretary General of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar and exchanged views on aspects of the economic development mandate of ESCAP. Further, they explored awareness for strengthening cooperation with ESCAP in areas such as national capacity building in trade negotiations, preparation for regional economic cooperation and integration, through a forum which would cover China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the future of the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement, during the bilateral meeting. Under Secretary General of UN and Secretary General of ESCAP pledged the organisation’s support in assisting Sri Lanka on relevant Trade and investment matters.
Image : Dr. Shamshad Akhtar Under Secretary General of UN and Secretary General of ESCAP