FTA with Pakistan has shown encouraging results- Minister Bathiudeen

Minister of Industry Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen addressing the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce Industry (FPCCI) on July 5 in Islamabad. On to his left is Raza Khan, Chairman Coordination, FPCCI.

With the 2005 implementation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, our country has witnessed very encouraging results in bilateral trade. Exchanges between the two countries have increased substantially, and Pakistan is now the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka in the SAARC region, after India, said Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce.

Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce Industry on July 5. Minister Bathiudeen was leading a Sri Lankan delegation to Pakistan for Ministerial level discussions on the Joint Economic Commission.

The value of total trade between the two countries has increased from US $ 158 million in 2005 to US $ 342 million in 2010, reporting a substantial growth in bilateral trade in both exports and imports.

Speaking of the Joint Economic Commission effort, Minister Bathiudeen said: “Under the 10th Session of Sri Lanka Pakistan Joint Economic Commission bilateral forum, we explore ways of bilateral cooperation in various fields. Of course, the expansion and development of trade, economic and commercial activities between our two countries is very much a priority in our agenda. Within this context,   with a view to further enhance and strengthen our bilateral relations our two countries have concluded the Free Trade Agreement, under the purview of these discussions back in 2002. With the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement in June 2005, we have witnessed very encouraging results in our bilateral trade.  Trade exchanges between the two countries, have increased substantially. I am pleased to note, that Pakistan is the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka, in the SAARC region, after India.”

“Even though our bilateral trade has been increasing over the years, it has not shown the full potential.  As you are  aware, our two countries are very close to each other in many aspects; geographically, politically, historically and culturally etc.  We need to harness this close relationship further and make full use of the opportunities available before us with a view to enhancing our bilateral cooperation,  for the mutual benefits of both countries.  What is important at this stage, is for the business community in both the countries to look for new opportunities, created under the FTA, and explore them, to the full potential. Except for a few hundred products, listed in each-others’ Negative Lists, all other products are eligible, for duty concessions and duty free access, to each-others’ market under the Pakistan – Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement.  This certainly gives an opportunity for the business community of both the countries for greater market access. Sri Lanka has a lot to offer to the Pakistan market. We produce high quality   agricultural, manufactured and industrial products. We are well known for our Natural Rubber, Tea, Coconut and Coconut based products, Spices, Betel Leaves in the agricultural sector, for which there is a good demand in Pakistan. Sri Lanka is emerging as a new destination, for trade and economic activities, in this part of the world. We have now gained a ground, for manufactured and industrial products, in addition to our traditional products.  Porcelain tableware and kitchen ware, ceramic tiles, furniture, electrical switches and sockets, fiber board of wood, herbal cosmetic products and plastic articles are some of the products, that Sri Lanka has been able to, promote in this important market of Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan has a lot to offer to us from agricultural products to manufactured and industrial products. There are many more opportunities in our countries and for this, the business community need to engage, and  enhance interactions with your counterparts,  and explore those  emerging opportunities” Minister Bathiudeen said.

“Sri Lanka has recorded an impressive 8.1% economic growth, which is the highest growth-rate, that Sri Lanka achieved during the last few decades.  The economy is expected to grow, even at a higher rate of 9% in 2012, and 2013.  At the same time, our per capita GDP has also increased substantially, to record at US $2400. What is important to note is that we have witnessed these improvements in our economy across almost all the sectors. With these macro- economic developments, Sri Lanka is now seen, as a fast growing economy in Asia. While we project an increasing growth of our economy the Government is fully aware of the basic needs of the business community. Well-developed infrastructure facilities, such as roads, telecommunications, ports, airports, banking, IT facilities etc. are an essential and integral part in the business activities. The Government has therefore, focused very much on the need for developing the most needed infrastructure facilities, in our process of faster economic growth. Foreign investors and entrepreneurs, are given special attention to undertake business activities in line of their business, within the Government economic policy.  We have opened almost all sectors, of our economy for foreign investments.  You can operate your own industries, without any involvement of Sri Lankan partners.  In other words, 100% foreign ownership of investments projects is allowed.  There are no restrictions, whatsoever in repatriation of profits, and doing transactions through international currencies.  We, as a Government will always look forward to facilitate, international business community, within framework of our open economic policy. In this direction, Government is interacting with the international business community and assists them in establishing their manufacturing units and investment projects” Minister Bathiudeen said.

Inviting Pakistan’s business community to Sri Lanka’s mega export exhibition in 2012, Minister Bathiudeen said: “We are in the process of organizing in March 2012, an International exhibition and business forum “EXPO2012”. This   would certainly be a good opportunity for you to visit Sri Lanka, in large numbers, and meet with Sri Lankan Business Community, and establish lasting and fruitful business relations. I wish to invite you all to participate in this important event.”

Raza Khan, Chairman Coordination, FPCCI speaking on the occasion said that 8.1% per capita GDP hike to $2400 and economic freedom standing at 57.1 proves that investors have trust in policies of Sri Lankan government. He added that the visit of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen to Pakistan will prove a significant milestone in the history of both countries and will go a long way in strengthening the ties.

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