A delegation headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe left for Switzerland early last week to attend the World Economic Forum.
The delegation included Development Policies and International Trade Minister, Malik Samarawickrama, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Digital Infrastructure Development Minister Harin Fernando. The delegation met several Heads of States during the event and held bilateral discussions pertainaing to strengthening economic ties.
Samarawickrama had reportedly said that Sri Lanka will finalize trade agreements with India, China and Singapore by June this year. Addressing a media briefing in Davos, Wickremesinghe said “We hope to complete the negotiations with India, China and Singapore by June this year,”
Samarawickrama also invited new investors to the country and added that the government was banking on Sri Lankans living abroad to step in for investments.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also elaborated that Sri Lanka will be going in for separate trade agreements with five Southern Indian states, including Tamil Nadu.
“Sri Lanka would be looking at entering into a trade agreement with the ASEAN rather than going for separate trade pacts with the member states of the region,” he said adding that Sri Lanka would also have ties with Japan.
Wickremesinghe also said the government was working on a tax incentive programme for investors. Samarawickrama said the Southern Expressway extension up to Hambantota and the Central Expressway up to Kandy be completed within next two and a half years.
Finance Minsiter Ravi Karunanayake who was also part of the delegation said Sri Lanka would venture into foreign markets as the country’s economy cannot depend on a 23 million population. “
At the discussion conducted with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif it was agreed that steps must be taken to strengthen the bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, as well as to enter into Free Trade Agreements.
“We also stressed that ensuring peace and stability in South Asia was an urgent necessity of the era, and the key role we would have to play in combating terrorism and alleviating poverty,” Wickremesinghe said.
He also explained plan to make Sri Lanka the hub of the Indian Ocean. Thereafter, Sharif extended an invitation to Wickremesinghe to engage in an official state tour of Pakistan in order to strengthen bilateral relations between both nations.
Professor Klaus Schwab – Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) agreed on the importance of my proposal; that was, to conduct a highlevel conference in 2018 between European and Asian Trade Ministers. Prof. Klaus also stated that his organization was prepared to assist in this process.
Meeting with the Sri Lankan delegation at the World Economic Forum Centre in Davos, Switzerland, Prof. Schwab went on to say that given Sri Lanka’s journey towards a proper and sustainable economic path, the WEF would be more than willing to provide their advice and support.
Swiss President Madam Doris Leuthard commended the efforts made by the present government of Sri Lanka to build a peaceful and prosperous nation. She further complimented the comprehensive economic and national proposals targeted at creating sustainable development, and declared that Switzerland was prepared to provide maximum support in this regard.
During this meeting, Wickremesinghe explained the national economic policies and sustainable development plan the government hoped to implement in order to build a powerful Sri Lanka.
Dr. Petra Laux – the Head of Global Public and Government Affairs at Novartis – stated that she was ready to create a space for the discussion about providing the general public with affordable, high-quality medicine.
Elaborating further, Dr. Laux said that in her experience, it was more convenient to produce simple drugs locally, while more complex drugs are produced internationally.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also met with the President of People’s Republic of China Xi Jinpin during his visit.
Prof. Schwab in conversation with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe