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Economic diplomacy to the fore

Economic diplomacy and consumerism are concepts now in the process of converging with the developing of the international trade in the world.

With this convergence all other isms that prevailed in the last century is now losing its colour, Foreign Affairs Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said.

However, where international trade is concerned there are two aspects to be considered i.e. within the own country, it should consciously practice the liberal economy and should be reciprocated by other countries to get involved in trade to achieve sustainable growth in trade.

Minister Bogollagama in an interview with the Daily News Business said all foreign missions should promote


Foreign Affairs Minister Rohitha Bogollagama
Pictures by Sumanachandra Ariyawansa

 bilateral and multilateral trade with other countries, which is the need of the hour.

They should promote international trade to showcase Sri Lanka as a favourable country for international trade and investment. In turn Sri Lanka should be prepared for international trade by adopting international quality standards and ethics for our products. Food security is also an important aspect when actively playing in the international trade arena.

With the emergence of consumerism, the consumer has a better choice to go for any product in the market but in European markets they mainly look for ethical and hygienic standards for all the consumer items.

Therefore, countries like Sri Lanka should follow and adhere to proper ethical and international quality standards in the market to penetrate in to the global markets.

However, when breaking into many international markets/trade we have to carefully study the prevailing domestic duty structures of other countries, which has to be approached conscientiously to establish favourable trade ties among those countries.

Therefore, internal excise duties and non-credit barriers within the country have to be streamlined by every state to facilitate international trade for better trade and investment relations, he said.

With the evolution of consumerism concept, Sri Lanka has a unique advantage by going for niche products. This is a prudent way to face the economic challenges with the emergence of major markets like India and China.

The Foreign Minister and his Ministry works hand in glove to seek a structure to enhance international trade. They are working with the Commerce Ministry and other line Ministries to do so.

'The most important thing is the Sri Lanka should identify her strengths and weaknesses to penetrate in to the international markets more efficiently and effectively under the concept of consumerism, Minister Bogollagama said.

He said economic diplomacy is a very important area in the Government, as we have a special agency, which coordinates foreign investors with the relevant Ministers to reduce red tape.

They are planning to enter into bilateral agreements with many Asian countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Myanmar to boost trade and diplomatic ties.

'With the emergence of free economies in the world, consumerism is coming into surface, therefore the consumer has become a most powerful person in the marketing arena. Hence economic diplomacy is important to cater the consumerism aspect, he said.

Sri Lanka will host the eighth edition of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue and this would bring exposure to the country where Ministers from 30 countries would attend.

Further, Free Trade agreements with India and Pakistan too are also major plus factors for the country's economy, while the hub status of the country is also a major advantage to promote these agreements,' the Minister said. BIMSTEC is an organisation that could vigorously promote international trade and other activities.

Sri Lanka become the 40th member in the ASEAN. This would be a strength to the country to expand trade opportunities. This is also helps to encourage to promote international trade and tourism, new airlines to the country and combat terrorism in the region, he said.

'With bilateral trade agreements like GSP Plus, we could export more than 7200 items duty free. But Sri Lanka has not made the optimum usage of that opportunity. It has enormous opportunities to capture the huge lucrative European market, he said.

The most important thing is to go for value added products, which could bring a lot of foreign exchange to the country with the opening up of the GSP Plus agreement, he said.

Over 100,000 Sri Lankans are working in the Gulf and Sri Lanka can offer high capacity technical skills to these countries.

The Minister said marketing Sri Lanka's oil deposits to the global markets is making good progress.

The Petroleum Ministry is working hard and the Foreign Ministry is facilitating to find a suitable bidder. All development projects of donor agencies go through the channels of the Foreign Ministry.

A good dialogue with every country is a must for sustainable trade relationships with other countries in the world, the Minister said.

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