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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2792

Rugby loving Pacific Gateway vies for bigger trade, ultimate FTA

Colombo, 30 October, (Asiantribune.com):

The latest economy to vie for a Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka is no less than the Rugby loving ‘Gateway to the Pacific’. “We are trying to expand trade with Sri Lanka. We are very keen to see our trade levels with Sri Lanka shall increase.

Though we are a small economy, we are the gateway to Pacific region and the region’s hub. Even the larger Papua New Guinea buys its necessities from us. Even an ultimate FTA with Sri Lanka can boost our bilateral trade and strengthen trade relations” said a keen (HE) Yogesh J Karan, the New Delhi based High Commissioner of Fiji for Sri Lanka on 22 October in Colombo.

New Delhi based (HE) Karan, who is also in charge of Nepal, India, Maldives and Bangladesh, was speaking to Rishad Bathiudeen (Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka) on 22 October at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Colombo 3 during his courtesy call on Minister Bathiudeen.

• ‘Let’s work on a PTA first!’-Rishad

• Looks for sugar refining partnerships with SL

• ‘Lanka’s manpower is of high quality’ – (HE) Karan

“There are many similarities between Fiji and Sri Lanka such as tourism and hub outlook. Sri Lanka’s manpower is high quality and we continue to benefit from Sri Lanka’s such quality, skilled manpower. Top accounting and finance positions, logistics/shipping and many designations in the Fiji Judiciary are manned by Sri Lankans. We are now trying to increase trade with Sri Lanka. We are very keen to see our trade levels with Sri Lanka to increase. Though we are a small economy, we are the gateway to Pacific region and the region’s hub. In fact, the larger Papua New Guinea buys its necessities from us. Even an ultimate FTA with Sri Lanka can boost our bilateral trade and strengthen trade relations. For now, we like to go for a trade MoU -initially” added (HE) Karan and said: “We are also keen to get refining facilities and refining support for our sugar which is one of our major exports. We believe that there is value addition opportunity for Fiji sugar here. We are thinking of bringing Fiji raw sugar volumes to Hambanthota port, refine, value-add thereat and re-export.”

Responding to (HE) Karan, Minister Bathiudeen said: “We are pleased about your interest to partner with Sri Lanka in trade as well as investment. Due to low trade levels, instead of FTA, we can first consider MoU partnerships that can pave way to a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA). Despite a strong Lankan expatriate workforce is in Fiji, bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Fiji is only around $ 3 Mn, which is very low and this highlights strong, unrealised trade potential that we can jointly explore. Also, if you clearly decide to enter for sugar refining with us, we invite you to invest here in joint ventures and we are ready to extend our fullest cooperation and consider the necessary facilities so that the Fiji can re-ship from Sri Lanka without delay. In fact, our FTAs with India and Pakistan alone can be help Fiji Sugar to arrive in the huge South Asian markets.”

According to the Department of Commerce, Sri Lanka’s trade with Fiji stays at a very minimal level, at $ 3.07 Mn (2012) increasing by 5 % from 2011. Sri Lanka has been continuously experience the trade balance surplus with Fiji during the recent years. Sri Lanka’s total trade with Fiji has shown a fluctuated trend during the recent past but Fiji is yet to exploit many investment opportunities available in Sri Lanka.

- Asian Tribune -

Rishad Bathiudeen (Minister of Industry and Commerce-left) in discussion with Yogesh J Karan, the New Delhi based High Commissioner of Fiji for Sri Lanka on 22 October in Colombo.
Rishad Bathiudeen (Minister of Industry and Commerce-left) in discussion with  Yogesh J Karan, the New Delhi based High Commissioner of Fiji for Sri Lanka on 22 October in Colombo.
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