Memoranda of understanding (MoUs) signed during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Sri Lanka would pave the way for boosting mutual trade and cementing economic ties, said Sri Lankan High Commissioner Vice Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama.
During a meeting with business community at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), the envoy highlighted that both countries had historical social, political and trade relations but mutual trade did not reflect the true potential of the two countries. He said that joint ventures between private sectors of the two countries would be welcomed.
The high commissioner emphasised that both countries should take full benefit of the free trade agreement (FTA) between them, adding “Pakistan should increase import of best quality Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka.”
Speaking on the occasion, LCCI Vice President Tahir Manzoor Chaudhry said Pakistan and Sri Lanka had enjoyed great relations historically, which dated back to the years when the two countries were created.
Chaudhry recalled that in 2018 the volume of bilateral trade peaked at $462 million but it slipped to $389 million in 2019 due to a decline in both exports and imports.
He added that in 2019 Pakistan’s exports to Sri Lanka were worth $324 million while its imports were worth $65 million. He pointed out that exports to Sri Lanka consisted of woven cotton fabrics, cement, potato, pharmaceuticals, maize, etc whereas imports included vegetables, fibre board, natural rubber, copra, etc.
“We hope that the recent visit of prime minister of Pakistan to Sri Lanka can turn into a strategic partnership,” Chaudhry said, adding that during meetings between the two prime ministers and different delegations, various important areas including tourism, education, defence, information technology and investment came under discussion to find ways of enhancing cooperation.
The LCCI vice-president mentioned that there was a considerable demand in Sri Lanka for products like light engineering goods, pharmaceuticals, surgical instruments, auto parts, industrial raw material and plastic goods. “Pakistan has the capacity to enhance exports of these items to Sri Lanka,” he maintained.
He added that business communities of the two countries should keep exploring the opportunities of mutual interest.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2021.
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