Switzerland, the nation with the richest households in the world, is to boost its economic ties with Sri Lanka as the Swiss Foreign Minister is due in Colombo and a high-powered trade and investment mission too been scheduled.
“The economic mission to Colombo from Switzerland is due in mid-May, led by none other than the top Swiss official, Ambassador Livia Leu. Our Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter is also due to be in Colombo earlier, by mid-March. All these are to show the Swiss political willingness and interest to intensify the bilateral relationship across the board as we see special potential in economic relations and much more potential on Sri Lanka’s investment side,” stated Switzerland Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Heinz WalkerNederkoorn. Nederkoorn was addressing Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen during his courtesy call on the minister at the Export Development Board (EDB) yesterday.
Leu is the Head of the Bilateral Economic Relations Division and Delegate of the Federal Council for Trade Agreements of State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). SECO is Swiss Federal Government’s centre for all core issues relating to the country’s economic and labour market policies.
Nederkoorn added, “We had such a lack of high-ranking visits between the two countries. But we are now looking to intensify our relations with Sri Lanka. There is that ‘will’ among Swiss businesses to invest more in Sri Lanka. Last month, quite a number of Swiss multinational companies personally met me and informed me that they are keen to invest in Sri Lanka or to further grow their already existing investments here.”
Bathiudeen said, “Our bilateral trade increased marginally by 2 percent in 2014 to US $ 269 million therefore I believe there is unexploited potential that could be explored by both sides.”
Despite bilateral trade reporting only a marginal increase in 2014, the continued negative trade balance suffered by Sri Lanka in favour of Switzerland, reversed for the first time in 2014 to Sri Lanka’s favour with a US $ 10.17 million surplus.
Among the leading imports from Switzerland to Sri Lanka are gold, medicaments, cement and diamonds while Sri Lanka’s top exports are electrical apparatus parts, printed circuits, gold, gems and apparel.In 2012, Sri Lanka received foreign direct investment (FDI) from Switzerland totalling US $ 14.46 million. Among the leading Swiss investments in Sri Lanka at present are Holcim (cement), Baurs (pharma such as Novartis) and the well-known food giant Nestle.