Singapore Trade and Industry Minister S. Iswaran yesterday said the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Sri Lanka opened up a new chapter in the two countries’ bilateral trade and investments, insisting he believes it would reach greater heights.
The Minister also stressed that it was a clear indication of the Sri Lankan Government’s determination to connect with global markets to ensure growth for local business and its people.
“We had very ambitious timelines set by the two Prime Ministers on the FTA. Although the deal was supposed to be finalised in June last year, it came to a completion merely one and half years later. It is a testament to the commitment of both countries,” Iswaran said at the Sri Lanka-Singapore Business Forum organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) yesterday in Colombo.
He said the Sri Lankan importers will benefit from low custom duties, while consumers will enjoy a wide range of high-quality products. The professionals of both countries will also benefit by providing various service sectors through the FTA. In addition, Iswaran said that the Government procurement chapter and investment chapters will help to attract increased investments. Highlighting that bilateral trade has already seen significant improvement, Iswaran said in the year 2016 to 2017 the trade increased by 25% to Rs. 300 billion.
There was also an upward trend seen in the service sector. “We hope the trade and investment momentum will continue as more Singaporean companies explore opportunities in Sri Lanka in growth areas such as hospitality, consumable goods, FMCG, aqua culture and infrastructure,” the Minister emphasised. It was pointed out that Sri Lanka is also an attractive market for Singapore SMEs. “Attracting large companies through FTAs are normal and is expected, but SMEs to come forward is significant. It means that they are comfortable and see opportunities,” Iswaran noted.
The Minister also visited a boutique hotel and a mixed development, two investments from Singapore coming up in Colombo.