NCCSL Secretary General/CEO Bandula Dissanayake, President Thiak Godmanna, High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka Major General Syed Shakeel Hussain, NCCSL Senior Deputy President Sujeeve Samaraweera and High Commission of Pakistan Counsellor Hasan Zaigham
Pic by Waruna Wanniarchchi
Coconut-based products and Ayurvedic products were identified as two areas where Sri Lankan exports could tap in to Pakistan’s market, during a discussion titled, ‘Bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Pakistan’ organised by the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL).
Speaking to Mirror Business, High Commission of Pakistan Counsellor Hasan Zaigham said that ongoing Pakistani investments in Sri Lanka included setting up of cement and sugar cane plants.
He said that the outcomes of the discussions of this nature were very positive as they are able to discuss many issues related to the problems faced by the business community.
“It gives us a good feedback, problems faced by business community, from our end - regard to the visa, payment problems, problems with the customs; with the exporters most of the problems were custom related such as banking and payments,” he said.
When asked about the current status of the FTA between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, signed in 2005, which has a very low profile trade according to the officials, he said that both countries are trying to broadly deepen the FTA.
“Negotiations are going on in the investment chapter. We have already shared a draft on the investment chapter, and on services, already we have a lot of scope to cover. We need to broaden the FTA towards services as well, and also to bring down the negatives in customs facilitation, visa facilitation etc.” He added that both countries have established four working groups for this purpose, in the fields of customs corporation, trade, apparel sector as well as investment.
During Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Sri Lanka in January 2016, both countries had agreed to re-invigorate efforts to reach a target of US $ 1 billion of trade volume. During his visit, both countries signed eight bilateral agreements.
“There is a favourable business climate in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Right now the main focus from both sides is towards expansion of commercial ties. We organized our single country exhibition here, we have had so many commercial exchanges, so many business delegation have come. Sri Lankan companies such as Hemas, are looking favourably for investment in Pakistan. We are already in touch with companies such as Akbar Brothers, Aitken Spence,” Zaigham said.
“Tourism is one the areas that is little bit neglected by both countries, but I think there is a lot of scope in Pakistani tourists coming to Sri Lanka and there a lot of scope for religious tourists from Sri Lanka to Pakistan. Currently I’m discussing with my colleague at Aitken travels regards to facilities,” he said. (ZZ)