The forthcoming China-Sri Lanka FTA is the biggest development in Sino-Lanka cooperation history since the 1952 Rubber-Rice Pact. And China is keen to see the groundwork on this FTA completed by December this year. “My mission is to start the China-Sri Lanka FTA process. The forthcoming FTA is the biggest development in China-Sri Lanka bilateral cooperation since the historic 1952 Rubber Rice Pact between the two countries. We expect that the preparatory process of the forthcoming FTA to be completed by December this year. Then we can go to the next stage in 2014” said a confident Yu Jianhua, the powerful Deputy International Trade Representative of the Ministry of Commerce of China on 17 October in Colombo.
Jianhua was addressing Rishad Bathiudeen (Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka) during his apresent on the occasion with Minister Bathiudeen were Anura Siriwardena (Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce) and officials of the Department of Commerce.
Jianhua’s powerful portfolio covers the Chinese Department of International Trade & Economic Affairs, the Department of WTO Affairs (China WTO Notification and Inquiry Center), the Department of Asian Affairs, China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges, China Association of International Trade, and China Society for World Trade Organization Studies. According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, the total trade turnover between Sri Lanka and China which stood at US $ 658.94 Mn in 2005 has increased by a massive 306% to $ 2676.13 Mn by 2012. In the corresponding period, exports to China increased by 286% to $108 Mn. This is an achievement considering the fact that of the 50 Asian Countries only 8 -including Sri Lanka – were able to maintain a positive Export growth to China since 2008. Latest statistics show that China has also entered the first 25 export destinations for Sri Lankan products.
“Sri Lanka is a priority country for my MOFCOM (China Ministry of Commerce). The FTA will not only upgrade trade levels between Sri Lanka and China but will also enhance trade skills of both countries as well. We will work diligently in our joint efforts. Before coming to Sri Lanka I looked at our trade with Sri Lanka very carefully in aspects such as tariffs, market access in China, diversifying of Sri Lanka’s exports, and overall enhancement of Sri Lanka’s export potentials to China. The FTA is not only for the sake of trade but something beyond-to materialize and institutionalize our strategic cooperation partnership as mandated by leaders of both countries. We are also encouraging Chinese firms to come and involve in Sri Lanka’s economic development. And my MOFCOM is thankful to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce for its ongoing support. I am also honoured to Chair this morning’s meeting with your Treasury which was a successful meeting with frank and friendly exchanges” Jianhua said.
Minister Bathiudeen, responding to Minister Jianhua, said: “This FTA is the most promising development in China-Sri Lanka trade relations, thanks to the initiative of (HE) the President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It will be stepping stone in our ongoing trade with China and we are very hopeful that with the implementation of the FTA, our trade with China will grow to a significant level. I am also pleased to hear that your meetings with Treasury has resulted in successful outcomes which is good news for our export and business communities. I invite Chinese investors for Joint Venture partnerships in textiles, mineral sands, graphite and mining as well as tourism sectors and access the huge South Asian market using our FTAs with India and Pakistan where more than 8000 export product lines are open for them upon 30% or more value addition.”
Secretary Siriwardena, apprising Minister Jianhua, said: “Our Treasury has also given the go-ahead for our FTA technical team on the FTA Tech teams of both sides have identified aspects and sectors of cooperation.”
During the in-depth discussions on 17 October noon, both Ministers also focused on such additional aspects of cooperation as Lankan rural sector /SME development and tourism with Chinese assistance.