Eleventh Sri Lanka-Pakistan trade talks successfully concluded on 27 November itself, the day it commenced and a day ahead of the conclusion which was expected on 28 November–and delegates from both sides accomplished the closure with a pleasant surprise-a ‘Happy B’day’ chorus! ”The Joint Economic Commission between our two countries should be held at regular intervals as convenient to both countries. This would certainly facilitate quick actions and seize emerging opportunities” said a satisfied Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka on 27 November in Battaramulla.
Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the closing ceremony of the 11th session of Sri Lanka – Pakistan Joint Economic Commission held at Waters Edge, Battaramulla. In attendance at Sri Lankan side with Minister Bathideen were his top officials as well as 42 top officials from 28 government Ministries and Departments-including the Ministries of Finance, Defence, Technology and Research, Higher Education, External Affairs, Industry and Commerce, Department of Commerce, Trade and Investment Policy, Atomic Energy Authority, Sri Lanka Standards Institute, EDB, BoI, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Customs. On the Pakistani side were Dr. Asmat Nawaz (Joint Secretary (EC)-Economic Affairs Division), Abdul Sattar Khokhar (Joint Secretary-Ministry of Industries & Production), Tanvir Ahmed Butt (Joint Secretary (IF)-Ministry of Finance), Yasir Mehmood (Director-Ministry of Foreign Affairs) along with (HE) Maj Gen (R) Qasim Qureshi,(High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka and his embassy staff). Air Chief Marshal (R) Jayalath Weerakkody (HE High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Pakistan), HE Major General Qasim Qureshi ( the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka), Minister Senior A.H.M. Fowzie, Deputy Foreign Minister Hussain Baila, Karunatilaka Amunugama (Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs) and Anura Siriwardena (Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce) were among the others attending the event.
The evening closed with a pleasant surprise for both sides-with Minister Bathiudeen being invited to revel in the excitement of cutting and serving the Waters Edge cake that arrived at the ceremonial table to mark his 41st birthday falling on the same day, and many at the ceremony immediately joined in chorus for the ‘Happy B’day’ melody.
The 27 November session was expected to continue through to a close on 28 November but since both sides were able to speedily resolve almost all pending matters by 27 November afternoon, the closing ceremony too was held on the same day evening at Waters Edge, Battaramulla. Agreed minutes of the session were signed by both sides at the evening’s closing ceremony. With the establishment of the Joint Economic Commission between the two countries at Ministerial level back in 1974, 10 such Joint sessions were already concluded and the 11th session began on 27 November in Colombo further strengthening bilateral trade, economic, culture, education, and technical cooperation.
According to the Department of Commerce, Pakistan is the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka in the SAARC region after India. The YoY bilateral trade has increased by 6% in 2012 to $ 433.69 Mn. A substantial growth in bilateral trade is seen in both exports and imports, especially after Free Trade Agreement between the two countries was implemented in 2005. The value of total trade between the two countries has increased by 174% from US $ 158 Mn in 2005 to US $. 433.69 Mn in 2012. From 2005 to the third quarter of 2013, FDI from Pakistan to Sri Lanka stood at $ 7.5 Mn (cumulative) across 25 investment projects (including Section 16).
“We are very happy to see that our two delegations were able to discuss and deliberate on each and every item of the agenda in detail in a cordial and friendly atmosphere, with a view to achieving the set objectives of the Joint Economic Commission. I would like to appreciate all the officials from both sides for their excellent and dedicated deliberations and contributions at this Joint Commission session. You would agree that it is very important to implement the decisions taken at this session, which have been incorporated into the Minutes. I am confident that the relevant Ministries and organizations will make their utmost efforts, to coordinate and follow –up the decisions and proposals in the Agreed Minutes as relevant to them” said Minister Bathiudeen, and added: “I am indeed very glad to mention that the successful conclusion of the 11th Session of the Sri Lanka – Pakistan Joint Economic Commission marks another significant milestone, in the history of our long – standing friendly relations. I have no doubt that this Session would pave the way to further widen deepen and strengthen the relations between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. I am sure you would join me in emphasizing the fact that the Joint Economic Commission between the two countries should be held at regular intervals as convenient to both our countries. This would certainly facilitate quick actions and seize emerging opportunities which are of mutual interest to both countries.”
“Pakistan attaches great importance to the Government of Sri Lanka and people of Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s leadership stands committed to enhancing our existing political and economic ties and works closely with the visionary leadership of Sri Lanka to achieve rapid development within the region. I see Sri Lanka as a potential popular tourist destination for the people of Pakistan” said Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi (Pakistani Federal Minister of Industries & Production), addressing the ceremony. “I am happy to note that SriLankan airlines would be flying more often to Pakistan and that will increase the people to people contact and will have economic, social and cultural returns. I would like to emphasise upon cultural exchanges which have the potential of bringing our peoples even closer. During the course of proceedings, both sides had detailed deliberations and achieved mutual understanding on a broad spectrum of subjects” Minister Jatoi added.