( June 29, 2013, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Official talks between the Governments of Sri Lanka and India on Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation were held on 24-25 June 2013 in Colombo, co-chaired by Dr PB Jayasundera, Secretary of the Ministries of Finance and Planning and Economic Development and Shri SR Rao, Commerce Secretary of India.

The discussions covered the entire gamut of economic, trade and development related issues between the two countries. It was agreed that India and Sri Lanka will continue to work on building on the existing economic relationship to achieve the shared goals of poverty alleviation, employment creation and economic development.

Recognising that India is Sri Lanka’s leading trade partner and that bilateral trade between the two countries has now reached USD 5 billion, it was agreed that the potential which remains to expand bilateral trade further to the tune of USD 10 billion would be exploited in the next three years. It was also agreed that increased attention of both countries would be focused on achieving a more equitable balance in trade between the two countries through optimal utilisation of the opportunities and complementarities in the two economies. Review of several elements in the current bilateral trade regime in relation to the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement will be undertaken over the coming months to achieve this objective with respect to negative lists, non-tariff barriers, mechanisms for resolving trade disputes, removing prevailing quantity restrictions for exports from Sri Lanka and facilitation of entry of value added products.

India has recently emerged as a pre-eminent development partner in Sri Lanka’s public investment strategy through the provision of assistance and credit totalling USD 1.75 billion. Projects being contributed to include the construction of 50,000 housing units in the Northern, Eastern, Central and Uva Provinces for low income families, restoration of rural vocational training centres in Puttalam, the establishment of a 150 bed district hospital in Hatton, development of vocational training centres in selected districts, rehabilitation of the Kankasanthurai Port and humanitarian assistance in support of post conflict rehabilitation initiatives of the Government of Sri Lanka.

It was agreed that promoting targeted Indian investment in Sri Lanka will assist the country widen its export base and enable integration into regional supply chains in important sectors. The importance of facilitating more investments in the form of joint venture projects to encourage private sector and state enterprises of both countries to work and develop together was recognised as well.

Sri Lanka High Commission, New Delhi