Islamabad: The High Commissioner of Pakistan H.E Seema Ilahi Baloch and Mr. Janaka Ratnayake, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) held a joint Press Conference today at Export Development Board (EDB), says a press releases received from Colombo here today.
Mr. Janaka Ratnayake, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) said that “Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoys a strong and long standing bilateral multi-faceted relationship, including economic cooperation.
Sri Lanka considers Pakistan as a true friend who stood with the people of Sri Lanka during the difficult times. EDB is quite willing to join hands with the High Commission of Pakistan in Sri Lanka to expand volume of trade between the two countries to further strengthen the long standing commercial ties for mutual benefit”.
He further stated that “In February 2010, the EDB had to cancel Sri Lanka’s participation at the Expo Pakistan Exhibition at the last moment due to the concerns of the private sector. However we believe that, it is our duty and the responsibility to work with the friendly neighbour at this moment to develop trade and provide opportunities for the business communities of both the countries to forge new trade relationships with each other”.
The Sri Lanka – Pakistan Business Council, incorporated on August 30, 1991, Pakistan – Sri Lanka Business Forum (PSLBF) launched on February 09, 2005. Pakistan Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (PSFTA) came into effect in 13th June 2005 are some of the important milestones in the history of trade relationship between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Pakistan is the second largest trading partner for Sri Lanka in the SAARC region. It was the 26th export destination for Sri Lanka in 2010 accounting for nearly 0.7% of total exports in value terms while it has been the 10th largest import origin contributing to over 2% of total imports in to Sri Lanka in the same year.
Trade between the two countries had grown during the recent past except 2009. According to the Sri Lanka Customs statistics, the value of total trade between the two countries which stood at US $ 169 Mn in 2005, has increased up to US $ 345 Mn. in October, 2011 recording a 4.5% average growth during this period.
Mr. Ratnayake pointed out that “there is untapped, vast potential for enhancing trade for both the countries to explore using the tariff concessions available under the Pakistan Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. Despite the concessions available under the FTA, Sri Lanka’s exports to Pakistan accounted for less than 1% of total exports of the country.”
Sri Lanka has exported mainly the basic commodities to Pakistan. The main exports in to Pakistan in 2010 includes sheet rubber, betel leaves, other natural rubber, coconut fresh nuts, desiccated coconut, crepe rubber, pepper, woven fabrics, lentils, and tea in bulk.
Mr. Ratnayake stated that “the EDB is ready to carry out a series of promotional activities in Pakistan and Sri Lanka in collaboration with the High Commission of Pakistan in Sri Lanka for the year 2012. This will include conducting seminars to create awareness, mini exhibition for women entrepreneurs from both countries, Single country exhibition and trade fair participation. Sri Lanka could also look into the new opportunities that will arise from the Free Trade Agreement Pakistan has with China”.
The EDB organized Sri Lanka’s participation at the My Karachi International Exhibition consecutively in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 which paved way for number of Sri Lankan exporters to enter and expand in the Pakistan market.
The EDB has taken efforts to promote value added products to Pakistan Market through this event viz. packeted tea, confectionery products, herbal healthcare products, ayurveda products, Wood based modular furniture, rubber products , Gems and Jewellery, Porcelain Tableware, paint and varnishes, pre-fabricated steel products, Electrical wiring accessories, LV panel boards, MCBs, Switch boards and power panels, Spiral Duct work and accessories etc.
H.E Seema Ilahi Baloch, High Commissioner of Pakistan welcomed the gesture of Chairman EDB and resolved to work with EDB to promote trade between the two countries. She expressed her satisfaction on the increase in volume of bilateral trade since the signing of Free Trade Agreement. However, she noted that there was huge untapped potential in this area, and with collective effort, the trade volume could exceed US $ 1 billion.
She added that necessary institutional infrastructure in shape of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on goods, Bilateral Investment Treaty, and MoU on Customs Cooperation is in place. The framework can be strengthened by negotiating and concluding Services and Investment chapters of the FTA.
The High Commissioner invited Sri Lankan investors to visit Pakistan and explore the countless potential of the country, including geo-strategic location, trained workforce, abundant raw materials, infrastructure, and investor-friendly policies. Pakistan was especially looking forward towards investments in energy sector.
Pointing out the apprehensions of the Sri Lankan businessmen towards perceived security environment of Pakistan, she said that incidents of terrorism were confined to isolated areas and urban centers were safe and secure for doing business. However, conflicts such as these do not prevent business and investments from flourishing. Sri Lanka itself is a very good example.
She expressed hope that the newly announced commodity tax in Sri Lanka’s Budget this year would not impact the trade of commodities between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
She also highlighted that Pakistani agricultural products provide a cheaper and higher quality alternative to Sri Lankan imports from far-away countries like Australia and South America. This in no way would compete with local farm products and add to the diversity to the advantage of consumers.
She pointed out that one such product was Pakistani mangoes, which are a seasonal product (June-August) and due to high quality are being exported to western countries passing their strict quarantine requirements.
Both the High Commissioner and Mr. Ratnayake expressed their firm resolve to work together to enhance the economic ties, especially trade between the two countries, for mutual benefit.
For more information, contact:
Haji Ahmed Malik
Principal Information Officer
Press Information Department (PID)
Tel: +9251 925 2323 and +9251 925 2324
Fax: +9251 925 2325 and +9251 925 2326