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'Removal of constraints need for bilateral trade growth'

Minister of Export Development and International Trade G.L. Peiris on called for removing the 'constraints' and 'inhibition' that hamper the growth of bilateral trade. Delivering the inaugural address at a two-day conference on "India-Sri Lanka: Trade and Investments," organised by the Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Centre, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and the Deputy High Commission of Sri Lanka, Chennai, he said that after the Free Trade Agreement was signed, the trade between the two countries grew from $557 million in 2000 to $2.7 billion in 2006. However, there was some degree of laxity with regard to the rules of origin, value-addition and non-tariff barrier.

"We are trying to solve this problem by talking to the officials concerned. India has been a major investor in Sri Lanka.

The Foreign Direct Investment is also on the rise. Substantial investments are being made by Sri Lankan firms in India. Leading Sri Lankan companies are playing a vigorous role in economic development."

Minister urged Indian entrepreneurs to take advantage of the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) Plus that facilitated export of 7,200 products from Sri Lanka on a duty free basis to the European Union.

Currently, Sri Lanka is the only country in the region to have obtained the benefits under the scheme.

"Though India is negotiating with the European Union, it might take some time. Very soon, the EU is likely to renew the GSP Plus scheme of Sri Lanka for another three years (2008-2011).

Come invest in our island, add value to your products and export it to the EU as duty-free and earn more revenue," Prof. Peiris said.

Referring to the untapped potential of the food processing sector, he suggested that packaging be the ideal way to move forward instead of exporting only raw materials.

"We should concentrate on food packaging. This seems to be the promising area for both the countries by pooling resources and expertise."

In his keynote address, CII Southern Region chairman P.K. Mohapatra called for regional cooperation in tourism between India and Sri Lanka through joint or private initiative.

"When Sri Lanka and the Maldives have great cooperation, why can't India jump in? We should have a joint council for tourism. Generate ideas and attract more traffic."

Replying to this, Mr. Peiris said that of late the large numbers of tourists were from India, overtaking those from the U.K. Hotels were getting filled up again, and there were signs of improvement in tourism.

P.M. Amza, Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, said Sri Lanka was awaiting the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that would boost trade and investment in both the countries.

The Hindu

 

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