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Foreign Minister addresses international conference on trade

(June 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama was the Chief Guest at the International Conference on Trade Facilitation held today (26 June 2009) by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka with the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Minister Bogollagam in his remarks highlighted that the Sri Lanka Government, by defeating LTTE terrorism, has brought about an environment that is conducive for the greater growth of the economy. The Minister stressed that the private sector must now take advantage of the opportunities created in the post conflict scenario in Sri Lanka.

It was noted by the Minister that Sri Lanka’s economy has strengths in the agricultural, industrial and service sectors. Sri Lanka’s economy has shown great resilience even in the face of LTTE terrorism and the December 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The Minister was confident that in a vibrant new environment, the Sri Lanka economy will achieve even greater heights.

The Minister stressed the attractiveness of Sri Lanka’s connectivity as a location. Positioned at the centre point of South Asia, both politically, as the Chair of SAARC and geographically, Sri Lanka is also the centre point between the Far East and Middle East. Sri Lanka’s connectivity is enhanced by its developed physical infrastructure and services, including air services, sea routes and emerging ports such as Hambantota and Colombo South. Sri Lanka’s solid infrastructure improves the potential for trade facilitation. In terms of the international framework on trade, Sri Lanka has espoused liberal economic policies. The private sector has been encouraged to take a leadership role. Further, Sri Lanka has become part of every important covenant and instrument that governs international trade. This is a solid foundation on which to build in terms of positioning Sri Lanka in competitive world markets.

The Minister said politically Sri Lanka is now part of every important political platform. In the Asian context alone, there is not a single international platform that Sri Lanka is not a member, observer or dialogue partner. In the recent past, Sri Lanka became a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which represents one third of the people of the world. In September, the Minister informed, Sri Lanka will be taking over the Chair of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), which has a membership of 33 countries. The ACD Ministerial Meeting will be hosted in Colombo in October. ACD includes all the giants of Asia, from the Far East to South Asia and West Asia. Sri Lanka is selected by its peers to receive such opportunities because Sri Lanka positions itself as a country that is business friendly. Sri Lanka focuses on promoting both intra-regional and inter-regional trade. There is great scope to improve trade opportunities, particularly in South Asia. Sri Lanka has the advantage of having entered into SAFTA and Free Trade Agreements with India and Pakistan, in this regard.

Minister further noted that economic diplomacy is an important part of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is committed to represent Sri Lanka’s interests both in the political and the economic spheres. Enhancing Sri Lanka’s stability through economic empowerment is Sri Lanka’s foremost consideration in the post conflict scenario.

The Minister expressed his appreciation for the role being played by the Commonwealth Secretariat in the organization of what the Minister considered to be an important event. The Minister noted that Sri Lanka has a special relationship with the Commonwealth Secretariat as one of the Commonwealth’s earliest members. In conclusion, the Minister noted that the International Conference was timely given that Sri Lanka is at an important juncture and it is the right time for the private sector to take the lead in the post conflict scenario.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is assisting the government of Sri Lanka, through the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry to highlight recent trade facilitation initiatives undertaken by international organizations, for the benefit of Sri Lankan trade facilitation practitioners and policy makers in both the private and the public sectors.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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