Singapore Trade and Industry Minister S. Iswaran (centre left) and Development Strategies and
International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama (centre right) exchanging tokens of appreciation while
Sri Lanka - Singapore Business Council President Shamil Mendis (extreme left) and Board of Investment
(BoI) Chairman Upul Jayasuriya look on
The government is moving ahead in full steam to capitalise the visit of Singapore Trade and Industry Minister S. Iswaran as it aims to kick off discussions on a potential free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, a development, which the highly competitive city state is observed to be equally keen about.
Implying that the stage is set to begin talks on establishing a trade pact, Development Strategies a n d I n t e r n a t i o n a l Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama said, “We are taking the opportunity of Minister Iswaran’s visit to initiate work on an FTA with Singapore. We both agree there are mutual benefits to a Sri Lanka – Singapore FTA. It would be a modern and comprehensive one. We have directed our officials to advance the process expeditiously.”
Minister Samarawickrama announced the nation’s stance on the subject at the Sri Lanka- Singapore Business Forum that kicked off in Colombo yesterday. While acknowledging an agreement would give businesses located in Sri Lanka, both domestic and foreign, preferential access to a market of about three billion people, Samarawickrama said the government will be “alert” during the negotiation process. “In negotiating these agreements we will be alert to the fact that eliminating non-tariff barriers is as important as removing tariffs. Mutual Recognition Agreements are also crucial for trade facilitation and a well-crafted awareness strategy is important for information dissemination,”
the minister said to a fully-packed audience that consisted of visiting Singaporean companies and local businesses, both who are on the lookout for trade opportunities. Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva also graced the forum along with many other senior government department officials, affirming the nation’s keenness in inking a trade agreement. Meanwhile, Iswaran noted that although economic links between the two nations have been growing organically, it is “far from reaching full potential”.
“There is significant scope for new opportunities,” he said. “There is more our respective governments can do to encourage deeper and broader partnerships between the countries. The scope is there for exploring opportunities not just in each other’s markets, but also in the region,” he added. It was shared that feasibility studies conducted by Singapore suggested that both the countries stand to gain much in having a “modern and comprehensive FTA”. While officials from both governments have been instructed to finalise the feasibility studies so that the way forward can be spelled out, Iswaran urged his ministry officials to explore with their Sri Lankan counterparts to restart negotiation on having an FTA.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to Singapore next month is expected to fast track the inking of the trade pact. Sri Lanka was Singapore’s 39th largest trading partner in 2015 with bilateral trade amounting to US $ 2.05 billion. Foreign direct investment (FDI) from Singapore to Sri Lanka amounted to S $ 656 million as of 2014. In the 10 years from 2004 to 2014, the stock of Singaporean FDI in Sri Lanka increased by 2.5 times, bringing it to a total of US $ 520 million. In turn Sri Lanka is home to 360 Singapore companies in a wide array of sectors.
East to get faceliftwith govt. enteringinto MoU with S’pore
Sri Lanka’s emerging Eastern Province is slated to receive a major facelift with the government planning to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Singapore to develop Trincomalee. Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama yesterday announced the government’s plans to sign an MoU with Surbana Jurong, a firm specializing in urbanization and infrastructure development, during Singapore Trade and Industry Minister S. Iswaran’s visit. Surbana Jurong has formulated the Western Region Megapolis Plan, which will be the centrepiece of Sri Lanka’s development programme, once completed. Samarawickrama shared that the company will also be developing a master plan for the Trincomalee region. Initially mapped out is a detailed longterm development plan for Trincomalee and surrounding cities in the East.