LAHORE: Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Pakistan Air Chief Marshal (r) Jayalath Weerakkody has called for full exploitation of Free Trade Agreement between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
He was talking to the LCCI President Ijaz A Mumtaz at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday. LCCI Senior Vice President Mian Nauman Kabir, executive committee members and honorary consulate of Sri Lanka in Lahore Engineer Nadeem Zia Pirzada were also present on the occasion.
Sri Lankan High Commissioner said that “There is a vast scope for the expansion of two-way trade between Pakistan and Sri Lank in the presence of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to further strengthen their multifaceted cooperation in the fields of education, culture, commerce and trade, science and technology and tourism” He said that “both Pakistan and Sri Lanka are lucrative investment locations for each other’s exporters as on the one hand Pakistan is a gateway to resource-rich Central Asian States while on the other Sri Lanka enjoys duty-free access to huge European and Indian markets”
Establishment of air links between Lahore and Colombo is a good omen for the economies of the two countries, he said. “The landing of Lankan flights in Lahore on Tuesday morning has opened up a new chapter of bilateral relations.”
Sri Lanka High Commissioner said that Sri Lankan government gives immense importance to its relations with Pakistan and taking all possible measures to further cement them. He also invited LCCI to arrange a delegation to Sri Lanka to have firsthand knowledge about available opportunities there.
He said that “Agriculture sector in the two countries hold a lot to Pakistan’s private sector”. He said, “Sri Lankan businessmen had shown their willingness to do business with their Pakistani counterparts”
Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Ijaz A. Mumtaz said that Pakistan and Sri Lanka are members of SAARC and enjoy friendly relations based on historical linkages. He said that “both the countries have common views on world issues and are committed to preserve regional peace and security”.
He said that “both the countries are steady trading partners. They have signed Free Trade Agreement in June 2005, which has provided the importers and exporters on both sides with greater opportunities to take the trade and economic relations to the next level. Both countries have to succeed in full swing to fully exploit the existing potential of trade between the two countries. Trade data trade data of last three years show that there have been inconsistent trends in two way trade.
LCCI President said that our exports to Sri Lanka dropped from USD 347.7 million in 2011 to USD 300.9 million in 2012. There was some improvement in the following year but it only went as high as USD 316.4 million.
Ijaz A. Mumtaz “Sri Lanka’s total imports are shrinking year by year but we need to find ways to let the trade relations between the two countries go unaffected. Our imports from Sri Lanka remain well below USD 100 million. We would certainly like to expand the size of two way trade between two countries through utilizing the untapped areas which are also supported under FTA.
Pakistan’s major exports to Sri Lanka include woven cotton fabrics , cement , sugar , wheat & muslin , medicament mixtures , tubes & pipes of iron & steel , potatoes , rice , cotton yarn , and onions etc.
Sri Lanka’s major exports to Pakistan are vegetable products , natural rubber , fiberboard of wood , cashew nuts , coconuts , peppers & capsicum , tea , sewing thread , cereal straws , tires and scrap of paper or paperboard etc .
LCCI President said; “There is considerable demand in Sri Lanka for Pakistani products like cotton & synthetic textiles, surgical instruments, plastic goods, light engineering goods, auto parts and industrial raw material. We are in a position to easily tap the market demand of Sri Lanka in fields like pharmaceuticals, chemical fertilizers, sports goods, electrical fans and household appliances etc. Similarly, Sri Lanka can exploit Pakistani market through enhanced export of its products such as tea, spices, coconuts, rubber and betel leaves.
“Business communities of the two countries should keep on exploring the opportunities of mutual interest. Business delegations composed of sector-specific participants or product-specific group of entrepreneurs should be organized regularly. Pakistani High Commission in Colombo can play a pivotal role in this connection” He said.