COLOMBO : Coinciding with Prime Minister of Pakistan’s visit to Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Commerce and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), in collaboration with High Commission of Pakistan in Colombo, organized the first-ever “Pakistan – Sri Lanka Trade & Investment Conference on 24th February, 2021 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan led a delegation of prominent business representatives from Pakistan across high potential sectors for trade and investment with Sri Lanka, including textiles, apparel, pharmaceuticals, agricultural commodities & food, construction materials, minerals, auto parts, footwear, Information & Communications Technology (ICT) and tourism.
As a reflection of the deep commitment to strengthen and enhance cooperation in bilateral trade and investment, H.E. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, jointly graced the event as Chief Guests. Hon. Abdul Razak Dawood, Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce & Investment and Hon. Dr. Bandula Gunawardana, Minister of Trade, Sri Lanka, along with Foreign Ministers of both countries, Hon. Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Hon. Dinesh Gunawardena, were in attendance as well. Amongst other Sri Lankan dignitaries, Hon. Wimal Weerawansa, Minister of Industries, Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Ajith Nivard Cabraal, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms and Hon. Tharaka Balasuriya, State Minister for Regional Cooperation, also attended the conference.
In his welcome remarks, H.E. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Muhammad Saad Khattak, High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka, underscored the common desire of the leadership of Pakistan and Sri Lanka for continued socio-economic development of both countries through sustainable and mutually beneficial bilateral trade and economic relations. While touching upon the deep historical and cultural ties, based on mutual respect and cooperation spanning over decades, he emphasized the need to cement the relations further through enhancing mutually beneficial joint ventures and economic cooperation in high potential sectors of trade and investment.
While addressing the august gathering, the Prime Minister of Pakistan reiterated his vision for poverty alleviation and reducing economic disparity through the establishment of a welfare state. He emphasized the significance of creating farm-to-market linkages through use of technology and to enhance profitability by creating a conducive environment for business and investment in Pakistan, which is reflected in the massive improvement of the country’s ranking in the Ease-of-Doing-Business Index by the World Bank.
Moreover, the Prime Minister stressed upon the importance of regional stability and prosperity through trade and economic interdependence amongst countries in the Sub-continent, along the lines of European Union. He urged Sri Lankan businesses and investors to join hands in developing tourism in Pakistan, particularly the development of Buddhist sites and heritage trail across the country, which would be of particular interest to local Sri Lankans.
Hon. Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, stressed the policy shift from “Geo-politics” to “Geo-economics”, with a focus on growth which can only be realized through enhancing bilateral trade and investment. He invited Pakistani and Sri Lankan businesses to utilize the opportunity presented before them by enhancing their connectivity across traditional and new sectors, particularly real estate and housing, with their Pakistani counterparts.
While highlighting the upward trajectory of bilateral trade since the Free Trade Agreement came into effect in 2005, Hon. Abdul Razak Dawood, Advisor to the PM on Commerce and Investment, emphasized that trade in services and investment must be included in the FTA in order to realize the immense untapped potential between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Advisor highlighted the recent dramatic turnaround experienced by Pakistan in terms of macroeconomic stability, sharp increase in foreign inward investment and the rapid rate of industrialization in the country and invited Sri Lankan businesses to take advantage of these opportunities. He underscored the importance of jointly utilizing the opportunities presented by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project by Pakistani and Sri Lankan businesses in reaching the Central Asian markets and beyond.
While speaking on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, Hon. Ajith Nivard Cabraal, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, expressed his gratitude for providing a platform for the Sri Lankan businesses to share their cooperation with Pakistani counterparts. He articulated the urgent need to increase the volume of bilateral trade and investment through mobilizing cooperation between private and public sectors of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Hon. State Minister emphasized the opportunity to develop a model for South-South economic cooperation and resource-sharing between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in order to realize mutual prosperity.
The Ministry of Commerce gave a detailed presentation on “Pakistan-Sri Lanka Trade Relations: Avenues and Opportunities”, which entailed an overview of the economy of Pakistan, the national policy and regulatory environment for trade, a detailed analysis of the Pakistan-Sri Lanka trade with an emphasis on high potential sectors, challenges and way forward to realizing the true potential of bilateral trade. The above was followed by a presentation by Board of Investment (BOI), which highlighted the role of Pakistan’s investment promotion agency, the key highlights of Pakistan’s reform agenda, the priority investment sectors particularly apparel manufacturing and housing & construction of interest to Sri Lankan investors and the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under CPEC.
The conference concluded with a business-to-business networking session which brought together Pakistani delegates and over 150 Sri Lankan businesses on a common platform for exchanging information and business opportunities. It is also noteworthy that on the sidelines of the conference, an MoU was signed between the Board of Investment (BOI) of Pakistan and Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka to deepen cooperation on investment promotion between both countries, in the presence of the Prime Ministers of both countries. Furthermore, , two MoUs were also signed between M/s CCL Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd., Pakistan and M/s Hemas Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd., Sri Lanka and M/s Genix Pharma Pvt. Ltd., Pakistan and M/s Emerchemie NB (Ceylon) Ltd., Sri Lanka respectively, which entailed collaboration in manufacturing, distribution and technology transfer.
The event was well-attended by dignitaries, prominent business representatives and government functionaries from Pakistan and Sri Lanka, members of the diplomatic corps in Colombo and local and international media persons.( Press Release from the High Commission)