The second Joint Business Council Forum of Sri Lanka and Pakistan was held recently in Colombo. The forum, a joint initiative of the Sri Lanka Pakistan Business Council (SLPBC) and Pakistan Sri Lanka Business Council, which was formed in 2015, is aimed at enhancing trade, investment and tourism opportunities between the two nations. It will also work together towards ironing out trade issues, etc.
The 18-member Pakistani delegation was led by Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Pakistan Sri Lanka Business Council President Imran Khalil.
During the forum, a ‘joint business council steering committee’ was initiated in order to resolve various issues faced by exporters of both countries. The joint business council steering committee comprises seven members: two members from each side, respective council presidents and Secretariat of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
Delivering the welcome address, SLPBC President Rohitha Thilakarathna said, “The formation of the joint steering committee would assist both councils to resolve issues in the existing free trade agreement (FTA) and through public sector involvement to clear policy matters and make suggestions/recommendations to the concerned authorities.”
In response, Khalil remarked, “The forum will enable us to act as a technical committee to resolve issues and move forward and we believe that this is a very vital step taken towards the betterment of the two nations. We also urge the Sri Lanka authorities to resolve visa issuance delays experienced by the Pakistani businessmen, who want to visit Sri Lanka. We also like to invite Sri Lanka to hold a Single Country Exhibition in Pakistan in reciprocation to Pakistan gesture,” he said.
Speaking further, Khalil said, “There is a huge potential available for Sri Lanka with the growing youth population in Pakistan; their new mind-set, eagerness to travel, which I think your tourism planners should focus on.” During discussions, both parties also touched on issues as valuation, existing non-tariff barriers faced by the exporters of both countries, also how to expand tourism links, businesses such as pharmaceutical, construction, sugar and garments, etc.
Forum chief guest Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Dr. K.A.P. Sipra addressing the gathering emphasized that the security situation in Pakistan has now been improved and encouraged Sri Lankans to travel to Pakistan, a destination now looked globally with religious and cultural tourism.
He also wanted Sri Lankan businessmen to look at areas such as precious stones, ornamental fish, fruits, apparel and non-traditional exports. While emphasizing the need to expedite the expansion of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (PSLFTA), Dr. Sipra reiterated the soft credit loan of US $ 200 million granted to Sri Lanka establishing the close contacts between the two countries.