The first ever Sri Lanka-Belarus official trade talks commenced in Colombo yesterday (July 9) amidst avowed assertions from both sides towards forging sustainable trade links while making inroads to the huge ‘New Asian; and upcoming Eurasian Union markets.
“I am pleased to note that Belarus is Sri Lanka’s first gateway to the promising EEU new single market. Our Free Trade Agreements with Pakistan and India have opened gateways to a South Asian market of 1.2 billion. Equally important is Sri Lanka’s forthcoming FTA with China. Therefore we invite you to partner with Sri Lanka and take advantage of the new Asian opportunity” said Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka, Rishad Bathiudeen, addressing the opening session of the first Sri Lanka-Belarus Joint Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation that commenced at Taj Hotel, Colombo yesterday.
The two day session will conclude on 10 July, and will see the participation of Valentin B. Rybakov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, sitting in sessions throughout. Deputy Minister Rybakov arrived in Sri Lanka on 08 July leading a 20 members plus Belarus delegation.
This session of the JE commission is a result of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to Belarus in 2013. We will try to arrange a return visit to Sri Lanka by our head of state. The agreements that can be reached by this two day session will help us in formulating this return visit by our Head of State, the Deputy Minister Rybakov announced.
Representing Sri Lanka at the opening session of 09 July were Lakshman Wasanthsa Perera (Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce), Anura Siriwardena (Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce), R D S Kumararatne (Director General of Department of Commerce), Bandula Egodage (chairman/CEO, EDB), top officials from EDB and Department of Commerce, 28 other Lankan representatives from Ministries of External Affairs, Plantation, Fisheries, Agriculture, Coconut Development, Economic Development (including BoI and Tourist Board) and the Tea Board. Also present were Lankan private sector reps including reps from business Chambers.
Addressing the opening session Mr. said: “We always attach great significance to JEC sessions that we have with foreign countries. You are absolutely correct in saying bilateral trade levels between Belarus and Sri Lanka are practically negligible. As a result, the (unrealized) trade potential is huge. Belarus views Sri Lanka as an emerging trade partner and a very important partner in the South Asian region. We are definitely interested in establishing long term cooperation with SL in various areas. For us it is vital to diversify our trade and economic relations with the world.