Enhanced trade cooperation cemented by a new Joint Trade Committee will open Sri Lanka’s anticipated trade volumes with Africa said Seychelles on 27 August. Lankan exports to Africa’s top blue economy as well as transit passenger volumes to Colombo is now on the increase as a result of recent air connectivity.
“The prospective Joint Trade Committee between Sri Lanka and Seychelles will be Sri Lanka’s platform for accessing the huge African market. Almost all the issues regarding quarantine of certain exports have now been resolved and all requirements met! As a result we are now receiving loads of more Lankan fresh fruits and vegetables than before,” said an upbeat Minister for Finance, Trade and Investment of Seychelles Pierre Laporte in Colombo.
Visiting Minister Laporte was addressing Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka Rishad Bathiudeen during his official courtesy call on Bathiudeen on 27 August at EDB, Colombo. Minister Laporte is currently leading a 20 member Seychelles business and investment delegation to Sri Lanka. Just prior to the courtesy call on Bathiudeen, Laporte joined for the opening of first Lanka-Seychelles Business Forum organised by the EDB. Also present at the courtesy call were Seychelles’ High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Waven William, EDB Chairman and CEO Bandula Egodage and Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka DG R.D.S. Kumararatne. According to the Department of Commerce, the total bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Seychelles was reported at $ 3.7 million in 2013. Main products exported from Sri Lanka included tea, fishing vessels, cereals and sausages, while the main imports from Seychelles were some spices. Sri Lanka believes that gems and jewellery, furniture, other types of ocean vessels, seafood and plastic products, have strong market potential in Seychelles. As for COMESA, it began in 1994 and currently has 21 member states (Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) opening an African market of 390 million.
Addressing Minister Laporte, Minister Bathiudeen said: “We welcome you in your first visit to Sri Lanka at a time we expect positive GDP growth here exceeding 7%, thanks to the committed vision of HE the President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Our Free Trade Agreements with India and Pakistan opens more than 8,000 product lines to be exported from Sri Lanka – tariff free. This South Asian market is an almost 1.3 billion strong that Seychelles businesses can aim at, through Sri Lanka. Today I propose that both Seychelles and Sri Lanka form a Joint Trade Committee to strengthen trade and business cooperation. I also propose a top Lankan business and trade delegation to Seychelles, possibly this October or November.”
“We will be very happy to receive a Lankan trade and business delegation to Seychelles to explore opportunities. Yes, this is something we can make it happen. This Joint Trade Committee is a good suggestion and could be set up during your delegation’s forthcoming proposed business visit to Seychelles possibly in October or November this year. I stress that your entry to Seychelles opens Africa’s COMESA market for you,” said Laporte responding to Minister.
“There are a whole lot of new opportunities -in that since we in Seychelles have free market access to all the 19 COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) countries and the 26 country bloc of Southern African Development Community (SADC). There are immense benefits to be gained. The prospective Joint Trade Committee between Sri Lanka and Seychelles will be Sri Lanka’s platform for accessing the huge African market. We are also interested in education services in Sri Lanka – already we have an arrangement with the accredited Maritime School in Sri Lanka, and already our students are here.
“Almost all the issues regarding quarantine of certain exports that arose when we commenced air services between both countries have now been resolved and all requirements met! As a result we are now receiving loads of more Lankan fresh fruits and vegetables than before. Also important is that now more international travellers are directly coming to Sri Lanka from Seychelles, to transit to Asia from Colombo, abandoning their usual transits to Asia through the Middle Eastern airports.
“We have cinnamon everywhere even in jungles and home backyards. But we cannot process or produce it competitively due to higher labour cost and the current labour is diverted to our tourism and fisheries. Therefore our freely available Cinnamon sector is also a good investment opportunity for Lankan investors. We will be very happy to assist investors willing to invest in our cinnamon sector. The Sri Lanka – Seychelles trade and business future looks good!”
Responding to Laporte, Bathiudeen said: “We are happy to see that now there are two flights a week between both countries, helping to increase business. Tourism, fisheries and education are promising sectors for immediate cooperation. Since the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) head offices are also located in Seychelles, fisheries cooperation with Seychelles could be further expanded.”