As a prelude to the Prime Minister’s visit to China next month, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama and Minister of Southern Development and Law & Order, Sagala Ratnayake last week returned to the island after making a short tour to China. In a statement released last week, the Board of Investment said that the duo had a series of productive meetings during their visit to Beijing while China is upbeat on Sri Lanka’s development plans and its drive for FDI.
Minister Samarawickrama took the opportunity of his meetings with Chairperson of the Exim Bank of China, Ms. Hu Xiaolian and Governor of China Development Bank, Zhen Zhijie to:
1. Convey the message that the Government of Sri Lanka was accelerating the implementation of ongoing Chinese project.
2. Provide briefing on a pipeline of new Chinese FDI projects, including the Economic Zone, ship repair project and airport development in Hambantota. New infrastructure projects discussed included the extention of the Southern Highway; Kandy and Ratnapura Expressways; and potable and waste water projects.
3. Draw attention to possible Chinese involvement in the Sri Lankan government’s development plans, such as the Western Region Megapolis project, which includes infrastructure development, involving elevated highways, light railway and utilities as well as real estate, both housing and commercial. The proposed International Financial Center can provide an additional platform for the the internationalization of the Yuan.
4. Explore ways and means of mobilizing Exim Bank and China Development Bank investment for new projects, as well as strengthening cash flow and liability management of ongoing projects.
5. Discuss the importance of the early completion of the FTA with China which would give Sri Lanka preferential access to a market of three billion people as it already has preferential trade agreements with India and Pakistan. Both sides recognized the benefits that can be leveraged through the positive relationship between trade and investment.
6. Promote Sri Lanka as a tourist destination for the 120 million Chinese who now travel abroad. It was agreed that considerable potential existed to build on the already rapidly increasing number of Chinese visiting Sri Lanka.
Both sides recognized that China’s “Going Abroad” strategy and Sri Lanka’s very favoruable location on the Maritime Silk Road provided a strong basis for strengthening Sino-Lanka economic relations.
The two Ministers were supported by Ambassador Karunasena Kodituwakku, was also involved in the discussions.
“The Chinese authorities were positive about Sri Lanka’s prospects as a strategically located platform for trade, investment and tourism. They saw opportunities for strengthening bilateral cooperation and looked forward to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to China in April to take the relationship to a new level,” the BOI statement added.