KARACHI: Dr. Bandula Gunawardane, Minister of Trade of Sri Lanka, has stressed the need to improve bilateral trade with Pakistan above $1 billion from existing $450 million.
“The bilateral trade volume of approximately $450 million is grossly insufficient as compared to the true potential for the same,” the Sri Lankan trade minister said during his visit to Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).
He expressed his resolve and offered his full support to take it to one billion dollars by the year 2024. He enlisted a number of areas to increase the exports to Pakistan; namely, various kinds of tea, natural rubber, coconut & coconut products, raw & processed fish, papermaking raw materials, gemstones, etc.
Gunawardane mentioned that Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (PSFTA) inked in 2005 has not achieved its real potential and needs to be revisited to make it more effective and result-oriented. He was optimistic that PSFTA can be widely expanded and updated to effectively kickstart an upward spiral in trade volumes and can translate into a multi-billion dollar phenomenon.
Hanif Lakhany, VP FPCCI, has expressed his profound grief over the most unfortunate and gruesome Sialkot incident with a Sri Lankan national; and, respectfully acknowledged the Sri Lankan resolve and resilience to continue to cement the brotherly bilateral relations between the two historically significant strategic partner nations.
Hanif Lakhany added that Sri Lanka is the only country with whom we have trade surplus on a sustainable basis; and, therefore, it will always continue to be an important market for Pakistani business, trade, and industrial community.
He also pointed out that Sri Lanka should aggressively promote its wonderful destinations and tourism infrastructure to Pakistanis to broaden People-to-People (P2P) and Business-to-Business (B2B) linkages and relations.
Suleman Chawla, FPCCI’s SVP-elect for 2022, stated that Pakistan happens to be the world’s largest tea importer at approximately $700 million per year; and, unfortunately, Sri Lankan share to that massive volume stands at merely 2%. He added that FPCCI will strive and facilitate Sri Lanka to enhance and multiply its tea exports to Pakistan. He proposed that the issue can be discussed while revising and expanding the PSFTA.
Engr. M.A. Jabbar, FPCCI’s VP-elect for 2022, mentioned that while bilateral trade volume of India & Sri Lanka is $4 billion and Pakistan & Sri Lanka is less than half a billion; both countries need to look into the marginal and sub-potential trade activities and for its core causes.
Abdul Rahim Jano, former SVP FPCCI & Group Chairman at Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), discussed that he has found Sri Lankan business community and the government as very hospitable and welcoming during his fifty years of experience of dealing with them. He also enlightened the session with regards to the historic trade ties between Pakistani business community and Sri Lanka; and that, it has spanned over a century; dating back to erstwhile pre-partitioned India.
Zeeshan Shahid, Chairman of FPCCI’s Pak-Sri Lanka Business Council, proposed that Sri Lanka should consider importing motorcycles from the well-advanced motorcycle and motorcycle parts manufacturing plants in Pakistan, which are operating on a large-scale. He added that Pakistani motorcycles have tremendously gained in product quality over the years; and, given the fact, motorcycles are also widely used as the common man’s mode of transportation in Sri Lanka, just like Pakistan. Hence, it will be a win-win situation for both the countries.