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Lanka successfully clinches new Flemish investments

"Prospects for many Flemish firms are bright in Sri Lanka. We are buoyant -and happy to say that two more Flemish Industrial regions are sending investment delegations here before the end of this year," said an upbeat Jos de Clerqc, the Trade & Investment Commissioner of "Flanders Investment and Trade," the official government investment agency of Flanders, the industrious Belgium province renowned for its logistics hub Antwerp in Colombo.


Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka (right) welcomes the Belgium delegation with a gift handed over to Jos de Clerqc (Trade & Investment Commissioner of “Flanders Investment & Tradeleft) in Colombo as Pierre Pringiers, Honorary Consul of Belgium in Sri Lanka (center) looks on.

Commissioner Clerqc was apprising Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka on May 30, during a special reception held for the strongest Belgium investment delegation (freshly arriving from its Bangladesh tour) in town in recent history, which was originally announced by Minister Bathiudeen when he was touring the Flanders Region, Belgium on December 20, 2012.

During Minister Bathiudeen's December 2012 tour of Belgium, Kris Peeters, the Minister President of Flanders Region accepted an invitation, extended by Minister Bathiudeen to "Flanders Investment & Trade" the official government investment agency of Flanders, to send an investment delegation to Sri Lanka in May 2013.

Among the Flemish firms in the May 30, delegation were Anglo Belgian Corporation (Infrastructure, Energy, Transport), Tractebel Engineering SA (Infrastructure -Port, Water, Rail), Orfit Industries NV (Health), UNIGOM NV (Rubber Tyre), Dredging International NV (Ports, Renewable Energy), PACKO Inox NV (Food, Agriculture, Diary), Prospex bvba (Consultancy), Poly Vision NV (Education), BESIX (Construction), and Roam Chemie NV (Chemicals).

"The Balgium firm 'Tractabel Engineering' has found a promising entry into Sri Lanka while two Belgium firms already operating here, have decided to further expand their investments. These two firms are the construction firm BESIX and United Tobacco Processing in Sri Lanka- the sister firm of J. Cortès Cigars, prime cigar producer in Belgium," revealed Commissioner Clerqc and said: "Now I also like to intimate the arrival of two more investment delegations from Belgium somewhere in November, a delegation from Wallonia region, well known for hi-tech and clean tech and also a delegation from Brussels region, well known for financial services."

"Since 2005, the total bilateral trade has grown by 64%, rising to $ 826 Mn by 2012. Diamond has been the main export from Sri Lanka to Belgium in 2012, taking 52% of exports. I am pleased to note that such leading Belgium companies, as United Tobacco Process Ltd, CFE Ltd, BESIX, are already successfully operating in Sri Lanka. And I have experienced the strong industrial capacity of Belgium when I visited the Flanders region last year."

Minister Bathudeen said and added, "I am pleased to say that Sri Lanka has become the highest ranking country in South Asia in the Doing Business Index, which rose to rank 81, in 2013, from rank 89, in 2012. I am pleased to say that we are now targeting Rank 30 by 2016."

Representatives of Tractabel Engineering, BESIX, and United Tobacco Processing/ J. Cortès Cigars confirmed new and additional investments to their local operations, but withheld from stating exact values. "Our new investment expansion here will be in the Million Dollar range" said Paul Callebaut, Besix' Resident Manager for Sri Lanka.

Emmanuel Blomme, CEO of United Tobacco Processing said: "Our investment here already exceeds Euro 15 Mn. We have decided to double our Sri Lanka output capacity in our B2B segment and recruit at least 1000 more to our BoI operations. We want to double our cigar-cuts output to two billion per annum" said Emmanuel Blomme, CEO of United Tobacco Processing.

"In addition to the 250 Mn Cigars produced in Sri Lanka destined for Europe, United Tobacco Processing' also currently supplies one billion cigar cuts to various Cigar manufacturers around the globe. It is this B2B capacity we are strengthening," Emmanuel revealed.

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