Sri Lanka: Singapore’s gateway to Indian Ocean
Sri Lanka and Singapore are expected to enter into a free trade agreement within the year 2017, according to Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan who met with Sri Lankan premier Ranil Wickramasinghe. He made the comments at the press briefing held after his meeting with Foreign affairs minister of Sri Lanka, Ravi Karunanayake.
He further noted that the FTA will be a sign of modern and comprehensive co-operation among the two countries and will send a signal to the world that both countries are open to business and welcome foreign investments.
He further stated, “We believe should the envisioned FTA should enter into force, Singapore can serve as Sri Lanka’s gateway in South East Asia, and Sri Lanka, our gateway in the Indian Ocean” and “This will be an example of a win-win outcome for both sides”. His added that he agrees with Sri Lanka’s pursuit of hub diplomacy and how ideal that is with regards to Sri Lanka already being a transhipment hub with economic ties across Indian ocean. He noted that despite Singapore also being a hub, two countries are complementary and not in competition.
Minister Ravi Karunanayake added, “Because of this there is a there is a surge of interest on the part of Singapore companies in Sri Lanka because they can see for themselves the growth potential in this place. In fact, there are more than 350 Singaporean companies currently in Sri Lanka engaged in activities in wide range of sectors including food and beverage, manufacturing, IT, cyber security and power”. And he highlighted the importance of continuing to have more businesses and it was this requirement that led to both governments to establish a conducive business climate through the FTA. Minister Karunanayke also confirmed that Singapore has been invited to take part in mega projects in the country such as Colombo International Financial City Project, Megapolis project and Trincomalee development project.
Singapore is expected to contribute in training public sector employees in Sri Lanka. Minister Balakrishnan added, this was an area that Singapore will look to engage not just on a technical level but on a deeper level leading to establishing trust and goodwill that will aid citizens of both countries in the long run. Also, tourism development programmes among the two countries are set to receive a boost due to discussions about capacity building and with Singapore offering a system for tourism industry under the Singapore Cooperation programmes. Security concerns of the two countries will also be a key focus going forward, especially with regard to maritime security in the Indian ocean as per the comments made by Minister Karunanayake.
Singapore is a key player in the region and currently has over 21 FTA’s signed with other countries. Currently Sri Lanka exports to Singapore amounts only to USD 85 million while Imports from Singapore is at USD 923 million. Singapore is Sri Lanka’s fifth main importer and the imported goods include machinery, petroleum, chemicals and electronic items among others.
With the FTA agreement in place Sri Lanka will be able to surpass the USD 1 Billion mark in overall trade with Singapore. The FTA would also mean that Sri Lanka will have a direct line of access to ASEAN markets and of which many companies are based in Singapore. This is also likely to drive a growth foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka. The FDI figure which today stands at USD 530 million in Sri Lanka is expected to reach higher levels.
|Article Code :||VBS/AT/08082017/Z_3|