A top European trade delegation has arrived in Sri Lanka to formulate a trade-related capacity building project, which will enhance the overall performance of the export sector of Sri Lanka.
The proposed US$ 8 million project, which is scheduled to implement from 2016, will be funded by the European Union, the Minister of Commerce and Industries Rishad Bathiudeen said.
"This latest initiative matches very well with our new government's vision and a great start! Therefore on behalf of the President Maithripala Sirisena, I extend our thanks to the EC (European Commission) for interacting very quickly with us in this event as well as all our trade initiatives and issues," the Minister said addressing the delegation.
The European delegation from Geneva's International Trade Centre (ITC) led by Xuejun Jiang, Chief-Office for Asia and the Pacific, ITC, Geneva, met the Minister and Commerce Ministry officials on 21 January at the Export Development Board in Colombo.
The delegation also included top officials of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Geneva.
The head of the delegation Xuejun Jiang said under the Joint Commission's Working Group on Trade at Brussels meeting last year, possible EU assistance for capacity development was inquired into and EU responded positively. Subsequently a proposal was followed through EU Embassy in Colombo resulting in a grant in the range of Euro 2 to 7 million for a capacity development exercise in Sri Lanka.
According to Minister Bathiudeen, Sri Lanka has picked ITC for as coordinator for the entire program. Other economic agencies of the country including government agencies and various trade chambers are stakeholders in this exercise. The concept will be developed and implemented by Geneva's ITC. The Department of Commerce is the local coordinator of the project. UNIDO is also extending its expertise. The new project is expected to commence within a year from now to span three to four years.
EU is Sri Lanka's single largest export market and has also been SL's second largest trade partner for a long time. Total exports to EU in this year's January-November provisional exports stood at US$3.21 billion-huge 32% of the period's total exports at US$10.1 billion. Total trade with the EU in 2013 was a steady US$ 4.95 Billion, slightly rising from 2012's $4.94 billion.
The Minister said the European Commission (EC) has given Sri Lanka continued and strong support in this project as well as to boost the trade capacity in general. The consultation process got started very recently, in October and already the work has moved to next phase, the Minister said. ITC has already extended its support to the Ministry of Commerce and Industries in 2012 in its EDB benchmarking test and more recently in 2014 July, formulating the 'Performance Improvement Roadmap' for EDB. Sri Lanka's bilateral trade with EU, which provides Sri Lanka with the GSP facility, in the first eleven months of 2014 stood at US$ 3.2 billion. In 2013, Sri Lanka's exports to EU stood at US$ 3.28 billion rising from 2012's US$ 3.billion, while imports from EU fell to US$ 1.67 billion from 2012's US$ 1.79 billion.