President of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Suraj Vaidya (right) presenting their SAARC Investment Outlook manual to Minister Rishad Bathiudeen as President Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry Sri Lanka Sarath Kahapalaarchchi (left) looks on
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Come September, Sri Lanka will host the annual SAARC Trade Fair and Investment Forum, nurturing greater economic and social cooperation within the SAARC region.
Themed ‘Unleashing South Asia’, the event that will bring the island nation under international spotlight, will be held in Colombo from 6 to 9 September.
The annual forum is organized by the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industries Sri Lanka (FCCISL), and MP Events Lanka.
The investment forum, to be held at Hilton Colombo on 6 September, is expected to draw over 250 investors (local and international) and will be attended by entrepreneurs, fund managers, CEO’s and other senior corporate representatives from the SAARC region.
The forum will kick off with a panel discussion which will explore the investment outlook of the South Asian region and is expected to give added emphasis to tourism, renewable energy, construction, real estate and manufacturing amongst other areas.
The one-day forum would also be followed by an individual country presentation sighting investment opportunities available within the region.
While the forum aims at opening avenues to boost regional trade, it will also feature a session that would allow the discussion of investment proposals.
The SAARC Trade Fair will be held from 7 to 9 September at the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre (SLECC).
In addition to country pavilions, the trade show will feature over 175 exhibition booths.
The organizers expressed confidence in the event creating an ‘ideal’ platform for regional business cooperation and facilitating trade and business integration. Furthermore, the event is identified to create networking opportunities amongst member countries.
The FCCSL expressed confidence that local businesses would be able to capitalize from the ‘immediate’ opportunities that would open up.
Free movement for business within SAARC emphasized
Head of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) yesterday urged Sri Lanka to take the leadership in pushing policies amongst SAARC countries to allow business leaders move freely within the region.
The visiting SAARC CCI President Suraj Vaidya stressed it is time the investment-hungry SAARC region take greater steps in allowing free movement of people for business and investment purposes within the region.
Calling Sri Lanka a nation that has a “forward looking government, which has tremendous respect within South Asia”, Vaidya urged the island nation’s leadership to push the agenda for at least a two-year business visa for business leaders of South Asia. While the US, Europe and China issue business visas that have a validity period ranging from three to ten years, business visas within the SAARC region for member countries is valid for a mere three months.
“We will not be able to move forward unless you allow us to move freely. We understand the concerns of security. The US, Europe and China have the same concern of security but they do not let the threat of security hamper the prosperity that business brings along,” Vaidya asserted.
He questioned as to why a Chinese business person is given preference in the South Asian region when he is not even a part of the fraternity.
Although South Asia has been identified as the fastest growing region in the world having achieved 7.1 percent growth in 2016, trade within the SAARC countries hovers around 6 percent.