The Sri Lankan Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama, has thanked the Commonwealth Secretariat for supporting Sri Lanka’s trade facilitation efforts. It has also called for more to be done to unleash the country's untapped trade potential.
The Minister was speaking with the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland during a meeting in Colombo.
The Minister praised the Commonwealth Secretariat's analysis on identifying new markets for Sri Lanka’s exports, the findings of which were integral to the launch of Sri Lanka’s National Export Strategy.
Minister Samarawickrama also requested the Secretariat to draft innovative frameworks which could transform local entrepreneurs into exporters whose products could attract international partnerships.
During the meeting, the Secretary-General underscored the growing potential of intra-Commonwealth trade. “Keeping the Commonwealth market alive is incredibly important. Intra-Commonwealth trade is currently about US$555 billion which we could reach US$ 1 trillion by 2020. However, due to disruptions in the market since 2015, we have seen an unprecedented slowdown in the growth rate. So we had to downgrade the initial US$1 trillion mark to US$700 billion by 2020," she said.
The Secretary-General expressed that achieving the US$1 trillion mark may happen, saying, “Forty-two of our member countries have signed for the World Trade Organisation’s trade facilitation agreement. We have already started working on this trade facilitation and have noticed some blockages that inhibit trade within the Commonwealth. If we work together with one another, we can create new intra-operable measures which can remove some obstacles that enables us to reach US$1 trillion,” she concluded.
Following the meeting, Indira Malwatte, Chairperson and Chief Executive of Sri Lanka Export Development Board, said that the Commonwealth was the ‘first’ international agency to support Sri Lanka in identifying the opportunities for promoting exports and professional services.
Anushka Wijesinha, adviser at the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, said he appreciated the Secretariat’s support for Sri Lanka’s ongoing work to reorient its growth to trade and enterprise. “We received inputs [from the Secretariat] that have helped us to improve the export development finance in Sri Lanka. It has supported the growth of enterprises in our export sector,” he said.
Both the Secretary-General and the Minister agreed to further collaboration with the Secretariat and member countries to expand markets and increase growth.