The Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) of Pakistan inked a number of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with the Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (CCC) and the Federation of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) at the Pakistan-Sri Lanka Business Opportunities Conference here on Tuesday.

A few individual firms also signed MOUs to enhance trade ties between the two countries. Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena and Pakistan Acting High Commissioner Tanvir Ahmad witnessed the signings.

The conference, organized by the RCCI in collaboration with the High Commission of Pakistan in Sri Lanka, drew the participation of over 100 Pakistan business representatives.

Lack of Awareness/Trade Disputes

The Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan Tanvir Ahmad pointed out that a lack of awareness, heavy dependence on traditional export categories were drawbacks. He emphasized the need to use such forums to further strengthen the existing bilateral trade and investment linkages between the two countries and their respective private sectors.

Pakistan’s exports to Sri Lanka grew from US$ 97 million in 2004 to US$ 355 million in 2018, while Sri Lanka’s exports to Pakistan grew from US$ 47 million in 2004 to US$ 105 million in 2018, almost double over the same period. But two-way trade is only Us$ 460 million despite a potential of more than US$ 2 billion.

RCCI President Nadeem A. Rauf said that the FTA of the two countries could not reach its full potential due to technical disputes, whilst expressing commitment to enhancing trade relations by removing various impediments.

Being the third largest chamber in Pakistan, the RCCI, he said, was keen on creating synergies among regional countries. “We are keen to enhance trade through mutual cooperation and facilitation,” Rauf added.

RCCI Group Leader Sohail Altaf said that they are exploring opportunities to expand tourism and aviation between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

“Tourism is a great opportunity for the two countries to work in collaboration. We need to enhance our air connectivity through collaborative efforts and discussions in this regard have taken place at many top-ranked meetings. We want more flights to be operated between the two countries,” he said.

Pakistan High Commission Commercial Secretary Asmma Kamal made a presentation on ‘Doing Business in Sri Lanka’ and pointed out that a few Pakistani companies had already invested in agriculture, IT, textiles and construction, and real estate development in Sri Lanka.

Investment opportunities and potential in Pakistan was presented by RIAA Chairman Usman Shaukat presented, whilst investment opportunities and potential in Sri Lanka was presented by FCCISL Secretary General Ajith D. Perera.

The conference concluded with the commitment to expand bilateral relationships between the two countries and with an invitation extended to Sri Lanka to visit Pakistan with a 100-member delegation. (CdeS)

Lankan Trade Minister Gunawardena

“Development of strong trade and investment relationships particularly with Asian economies is a key strategy outlined in the ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor’ policy framework. To accelerate growth in the post-pandemic era, the Government strongly encourages trade and investment cooperation with mutual benefit,” Lankan Minister Gunawardena said.

He regretted that the full potential of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) had not been utilized over the years.

“Although we have maintained substantial trade numbers between the two countries, we have not been able to utilize the full potential of the FTA. Hence, there is a clear need for more efforts to use the FTA effectively,” he added.

Gunawardena also said Sri Lanka has diverse sectors to enhance business opportunities for Pakistan investors.

The Pakistan Acting High Commissioner Tanvir Ahmad said there is immense potential for both countries to expand trade under the FTA.

“Sri Lanka was the first country to ink an FTA with Pakistan back in 2005. However, the full potential of the FTA was not reflected in the past years. Pakistan is committed to exploring the maximum capacity of the trade agreement for the mutual benefit of two friendly nations,” he added.

He also said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit in February 2021 paved the way to strengthen bilateral ties with Sri Lanka.

The Acting High Commissioner invited Minister Gunawardena to undertake a visit to Pakistan at his earliest convenience, which would boost bilateral trade, joint ventures and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Political and economic stability in Pakistan, with new reforms to support sustainable development and investments, ease of doing business, global competitiveness and market access, were highlighted the event. Prospects for Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to set up factories there were mentioned.



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