ISLAMABAD: Sri Lanka is keen to further enhance bilateral trade and economic relations with Pakistan as both countries have good potential to do trade in many areas, said Consul General of Sri Lanka based in Karachi G L Gnanatheva during his visit to the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI).
He said that many Pakistani products including pharmaceuticals, rice, fruits and vegetables, steel, cement, garments and textiles have huge potential in Sri Lanka and similarly Sri Lankan tea, wall tiles, floor tiles, bathroom fittings have great scope in Pakistan.
He urged the business community of both countries to step up efforts to realise all potential areas of business cooperation. The Sri Lankan official said that they have signed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with China and Saarc countries and by enhancing cooperation, Pakistan can get better access to huge markets of ASEAN and China. He said that Sri Lanka was producing 75% electricity through hydro source and both countries have the potential to cooperate in energy sector for achieving mutually beneficial outcomes.
Sri Lankan manufacturers have made huge investment for enhancing production capacity focusing on Pakistan, but a hike in regulatory duty by Pakistan has affected Sri Lankan exports to it, the consul general lamented. Gnanatheva said Sri Lanka was the first country to sign a FTA with Pakistan, but its approach of increasing taxes through SROs was a problem in exploiting it. “Sri Lanka has made attractive investment policies for foreign investors and Pakistani investors should explore Sri Lanka for JVs and investment.”
There is huge scope for Pakistani pharmaceutical sector to invest in Sri Lanka and enhance exports to many other countries, he added.
Also speaking in the occasion, ICCI President Sheikh Amir Waheed said that despite signing the FTA, bilateral trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka was not encouraging. He stressed that both countries should focus on improving business linkages between their private sectors for exploring all untapped areas of mutual cooperation.
Waheed was of the view that encouraging frequent exchange of trade delegations and organising single country exhibition was the way forward for both countries to promote bilateral trade and economic relations.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2017.