India’s Finance Minister in town to give further impetus to economic ties with SL

Thursday, 2 November 2023 02:44 –      – 187

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Indian Finance Minister Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

  • Bilateral talks to boost trade, investments via ETCA concluded after a five year hiatus
  • Over 30 member high powered Indian business delegation in Colombo to explore new opportunities

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman arrived yesterday for a three-day visit engagement during which would give a further impetus to strong and growing economic ties with Sri Lanka.

She is in Sri Lanka on the invitation by the Government to attend the ‘Naam 200’ event in Colombo today and will call on President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

The multi-city visit is expected to provide added momentum to economic and commercial engagements between the two countries.

A milestone is the resumption of bilateral talks to enhance the existing FTA to an comprehensive Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ECTA) after a five year hiatus. The two sides held the 12th round of negotiations on the ETCA in Sri Lanka from 30 October and 1 November. They had held 11 rounds of bilateral talks from 2016 to 2018. after which the talks were paused.

“During this round, both sides reviewed the progress on implementation and decided to drop nine issues as being resolved,” India’s commerce and industry ministry said in a statement.

A Business Summit on the theme ‘Enhancing Connectivity: Partnering for Prosperity’, scheduled for today is also a key highlight of the visit.  A high power Indian business delegation, cutting across several industries, will take part in the Business Summit.

The two leading Indian Industry bodies – Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) – shall also be a part of the Summit. Over 30 business leaders from India will attend. The CII delegation is led by its President-elect, ITC Managing Director Sanjiv Puri, a major investor in Sri Lanka with ITC One project nearing completion.

Industry captains from India who are visiting Sri Lanka will actively seek investment opportunities in Sri Lanka towards achieving mutual benefits. For Sri Lanka, such investments hold the key to its economic recovery.

India has reiterated on several occasions that they are committed to the economic recovery process in Sri Lanka. Highlighting the vital role of investments in this endeavour, India has underlined that mutually beneficial investments shall be an area of priority with regard to India-Sri Lanka bilateral relations.

India is currently the largest source of investments for Sri Lanka and the largest source of tourists.

The directive from the Finance Minister to the Indian industry representatives is to forge lasting and productive commercial and business relationships.

Leading Sri Lankan businesses shall also be attending the Summit. This would therefore, act as a wonderful platform for newer partnerships.

India is also Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner and the two sides are currently engaged in the 12th round of ETCA – Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) – with a view to expand the scale of economic and commercial activities.

Separately Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed the Chief Prelate of Asgiriya Chapter, Venerable Warakagoda Sri Gnanarthana Thera that she will witness the exchange of MOU on solar electrification of religious places across Sri Lanka. This is the first project under the USD 15 million grant assistance announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries.

Sitharaman was instrumental in fast tracking the multi-pronged assistance of USD 4 billion to Sri Lanka in 2022.

She also advocated strongly for Sri Lanka with the IMF for a special package, during the economic and financial difficulties. Subsequently, India was the first bilateral creditor to provide a written assurance which paved way for the IMF package.