From left: Ambassador for Afghanistan in Sri Lanka Ashraf Haidari and Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Manjula de Silva
- To promote private biz to become reciprocal partners
- SL-Afghanistan Trade Desk to implement shared goals
- Impending Air Services Agreement and Trade and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement to enhance trade
A historic memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed virtually by Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Manjula de Silva and Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment Chief Executive Officer Sayed Zaman Hashemi, witnessed by Ambassador for Afghanistan in Sri Lanka M. Ashraf Haidari.
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, with a view to build a mutually beneficial relationship with the Afghan Chamber and to promote friendly and cordial relations between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, signed this MoU with the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment, on September 28, 2020.
The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment is the representative body of the industrial and commercial entities of Afghanistan, established with an objective of increasing the trade flow through creating business opportunities and improving the business climate for the private sector.
“We have similar objectives and we enter into an alliance with the Afghan Chamber in order to promote the private sector business entities to become reciprocal partners and to extend all support, cooperation and assistance to each other for the overall benefit of both countries,” said de Silva.
During his welcome address, de Silva further emphasised the importance of identifying the potential products and services to promote in Afghanistan, which has a population of over 30 million.
Signing of the virtual MoU was initiated by Haidari, as a result of a series of discussions held since 2019. The MoU provides for the establishment of a Sri Lanka-Afghanistan Trade Desk within both chambers, helping implement shared commercial goals.
Haidari delivered the remarks after the two CEOs exchanged their views on the numerous business and investment opportunities in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, taking into account the existing low volume of bilateral trade. Hence, they pledged to work with the Embassies of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in Colombo and Kabul, to implement the MoU, for realising the vast trade and investment potential that exists between the two South Asian nations.
“I am delighted to witness the fruition of our shared hard efforts over the past year to sign this historic MoU between our two chambers of commerce, which I have no doubt will work together, in partnership with our two embassies here and in Kabul, to foster and deepen commercial ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka,” commented Haidari.
He also acknowledged the strong support from the leaderships of both countries for further expansion of bilateral relations, especially full-spectrum connectivity for trade and investment, thereby forging long-lasting people-to-people ties between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
The MoU seeks to enable the two chambers to “disseminate all such information as may be relevant to enhance bilateral trade and business; initiate and promote joint ventures, partnerships and other business linkages; provide technical expertise; arrange visits between the two countries; formulate proposals to accelerate bilateral relations and convene meetings, conferences and discussions”.
To that end, both sides agreed to hold regular webinars, including major investors, to exchange business ideas and to discuss the specifics of investment opportunities in agribusiness (tea, saffron, coconut oil, fresh fruits and dried nuts), services (skilled and unskilled labour), logistics, textiles (garments, rugs and carpets), gemstones (precious and semi-precious stones), tourism, medical tourism, higher education tourism, as well as other sectors of mutual investment interest.
It was also noted that the pending Air Services Agreement and Trade and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, once signed by both governments, would further enhance and facilitate bilateral trade.
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has already signed 130 MoUs to expand and further strengthen strong relationships with overseas trade promotion organisations for the benefit of the business community in Sri Lanka.