Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe addressed the Japanese Parliament on October 6, 2015 becoming the third world leader to address the Japanese Parliament after US President Barack Obama and Indian PM Narendra Modi. In his speech Wickremasinghe said Sri Lanka is preparing for an Asia Pacific based on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and intends to also negotiate with the EU for GSP+ concessions and with China for a Free Trade Agreement.

Following are extracts from his speech:
The Government is planning to carry out the next generation of economic reforms to make Sri Lanka a highly competitive economy – we are aiming to be the most competitive in South Asia – on par with South East Asia. The Ministry of Development Strategy and International Trade will coordinate all investments and economic relations.  The barriers to Direct Foreign Investments including the bottleneck and delays to doing business will be removed. There will also be reforms in the Financial and Monetary sectors and a more stringent control of the Budgets.

We have created a new Ministry for Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure.

Sri Lanka will also strengthen its social sector program especially Universal access to Education and Health by increasing the budgetary allocations to both these sectors. Finally, a new set of laws will be put in place to combat corruption and financial crimes.
Since time immemorial Sri Lanka has been at the heart of Indian Ocean trade, and more precisely in the Bay of Bengal.  We will continue this tradition by entering into an Indo-Lanka Economic and Technology Collaboration partnership, Free Trade Agreements with Pakistan, Bangladesh and the ASEAN nations bordering the Bay of Bengal – Myanmar Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

We are preparing ourselves for an Asia Pacific based on the Trans Pacific Partnership.   Sri Lanka will also negotiate with the EU for GSP+ concessions and with China for a Free Trade Agreement.
Today the global economy is still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. I believe that two major economic developments will determine the fate of medium term global growth.
First – the normalization of the US monetary policy.

The second is China’s slow transformation to an economy relying on consumption, which will lead to slower and sustainable growth in China.

In this background, the Managing Director of IMF, Christine Lagarde has described the medium-term growth prospects as “the new mediocre”.

I am advocating that we, in South Asia, respond to this predicted low growth scenario – by creating a High Growth South Asia Region.
The economies of UK and US are performing well while the EU and Japan are on the way to full recovery.  India is expected to sustain its growth.

The new national Government in Sri Lanka is providing stability for economic restructuring which is expected to lead to a high rate of growth. However, Japanese participation in South Asian Economic Development will add momentum to enable higher growth rates in South Asia. This requires multiple options to be pursued – including Japanese Connectivity to India through Sri Lanka.

Speaking at the STS Forum in Kyoto, I proposed a partnership between Japan and the South Asian countries to enable the application of Japanese Science and Technology to transform the regional economy.  I am convinced that we have to make this happen – not only will it profit South Asia but it will benefit Japan too, giving her a lead role in shaping the South Asian economy.

Today South Asia has a population of 1.6 billion people and a GDP of US$ US$ 2.6 trillion.  By 2050 the region’s population is projected to increase to about 2 billion, which will make it larger than East Asia. Let us ponder on that.

Let me reiterate, we will look to Japan to take the lead in the economic transformation of Sri Lanka and South East Asia.    To create a South Asian High Growth Area enabling the region to fulfill its economic potential and bring higher living standards to its people.   This will also have a positive impact on the medium term Global Economic growth.  It is in this context that we are discussing a new collaboration partnership with Japan.  Sri Lanka is willing to make the start on this new journey, which will also offer many new opportunities for Japanese investors.

The proposed collaboration, as I stated before, also aims to utilize Japanese science and technology, to overcome the economic challenges to development.  This requires multiple approaches to utilize Japan’s experience, namely,

1.Collaboration between existing institutions

2.Building Centres of Excellence in Science and Technology Innovation

3.Strengthening of Science and Technology education and the establishment  of an Institute of Technology with a Japanese ethos.

4. Assistance to strengthen human security and to counter climate change.

Finally, I would like to invite Direct Japanese Private Investments in all sectors and we will put in place the appropriate environment for this. We also hope to improve bilateral trading and enhance inter-personal relations by attracting Japanese tourists.

The proposed collaborations will be parallel to the existing infrastructure development programs and the financial  assistance programs aiming to create synergies and a strategic platform for Japan’s activities in Sri Lanka and the South Asian region.

I further propose that this economic collaboration be buttressed by political collaboration, which will further strengthen the ties between our two countries.

I believe that we have a common interest in Maritime Security and Oceanic issues especially in regard to the Indian Ocean:
The reduction of tension in Asia, The maintenance of free, open and stable seas – based on the Rule of Law, Improved maritime connectivity, and Reforms to the UN Security Council.

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