Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama visited Thailand recently to explore avenues of expanding and diversifying the bilateral trade and investment relations and progressing on the establishment of the industrial parks as an aspect of the Sri Lanka government’s economic policy.
Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and Agriculture State Minister Wasantha Aluvihare also joined this visit in the context of furthering these two primary areas of cooperation between the countries.
Samarawickrama had discussions with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Somkid Jatusripitak at which Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn was associated.
Recalling the protracted process in formulating the envisaged free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, which is underway, Dr. Jatusripitak proposed the relationship be elevated to a strategic economic partnership, as a precursor to its conclusion. Samarawickrama welcoming this proposal underlined the need to identify focused cooperation in priority areas for the
The areas of agriculture, gems and jewellery, electronics, rubber automative parts, processed foods, industrial parks and tourism were some which were originally outlined by Samarawickrama. The two sides undertook to identify the priority sectors of cooperation under this partnership for formalization. In furtherance of the bilateral economic ties Dr. Jatusripitak undertook to visit Sri Lanka in August 2017, with a high-level delegation in response to the Sri Lankan minister’s invitation.
Samarawickrama assured Dr. Jatusripitak of the political stability in Sri Lanka with the formation of a national unity government, where the main two political parties are working together towards the country’s development. He added that the government is reviewing the regulations for foreign direct investment (FDI) in order to make them more investor friendly. The minister pointed out that measures are being taken to reinvigorate the Indo-Lanka FTA and that with Pakistan, while it is expected to conclude such agreements with China and Singapore this year.
The FTA and deepening of economic ties with Thailand are all aimed at tripling bilateral trade to reach the target of US $ 1.5 billion over the next five years as endorsed by the leaders of the two countries.
The visiting ministers also met with Thai Industry Minister Dr. Uttama Savanayana, who emphasized the need for countries of the Asian region to come together as partners in the present international climate. He explained that Thailand is working on their digital infrastructure and e-commerce structures to also bring the rural areas into the mainstream economic system.
Samarawickrama noted that Sri Lanka has much to learn from the kingdom’s successful industrial development. He referred to the need of Thai businessmen having increased commercial links with Sri Lanka and informed that the government is exploring ways to improve the country’s world ranking in ease of doing business.
The minister proposed that considering the developed Thai gem and jewellery industry and the availability of high-quality gem stones in his country, joint ventures could be established in Sri Lanka. This would enable access to the large subcontinent market for jewellery through the Sri Lanka FTAs.
Samarawickrama also requested for there to be transfer of technological knowledge, capital and regular exchanges at official level. He confirmed Sri Lanka’s participation in the industry fair to be held in Bangkok in July 2017. It was also stated that the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) with the support of the Sri Lanka embassy in Thailand will be organising the participation of Sri Lankan exporters at the 60th Bangkok Gem and Jewellery Show in September for which, prior to the ministerial visit, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in Colombo between the International Trade Promotion Department of the Commerce Ministry in Thailand and the EDB of the Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry of Sri Lanka.
The delegation visited Amata Nakorn Industrial Estate in Chonburi Province and with the Thai ambassador to Sri Lanka, to the Rojana Industrial Park in Ayutthaya to learn at firsthand on the establishment, management and maintenance of industrial parks as well as their best practices and marketing of such facilities.
The ministers were also met by Amata Corporation Founder and CEO Vikrom Kromadit, who offered to share his experience in the area of industrial estate development.
The Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister and Agriculture State Minister took the opportunity to highlight their areas of interests during the discussions with the Thai deputy prime minister and commerce and industry ministers. In this context, it was outlined that the Thai investors should consider the aquaculture parks in Sri Lanka, with special interest in crab and prawn breeding. They brought these prospects to the attention of the Thai private sector.
Meetings with the private sector were facilitated by the Board of Trade, with representatives from the associations of rice producers, tuna and frozen food, processed food, hospitality, sugar, textiles and apparel, gem and jewellery, heavy machinery, construction, energy, automotive parts and financial services.
Samarawickrama underscored the advantages of investing in Sri Lanka and pointed out the need for developing Sri Lanka’s export basket by introducing new value-added products for which related technologies and processes needed to increase yields are available with Thai companies who could forge joint ventures with
Sri Lankan counterparts.
A presentation was made by the Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka. The Thai companies present demonstrated eagerness in collaborating with Sri Lankan business enterprises, which were noted for progressing. EDB Chairperson and the senior officials of the BOI, Agriculture Department and National Aquaculture Development Authority (NAQDA) of Sri Lanka also joined this visit, together with Sri Lanka Ambassador to Thailand Kshenuka Senewiratne.