Sri Lanka becomes first South Asian participant at powerful Sino-ASEAN expo

Head of Mission of Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Guangzhou, Consul General Shanika Dissanayake joins Minister Rishard Bathiudeen at the Nanning opening session

  • 15 Chinese and ASEAN leaders at Nanning’s CAEXPO 13
  • Sri Lanka honoured, pleased about China’s interest in Sri Lanka: Rishad
  • Says pleased of China’s interest in Sri Lanka
  • ASEAN bloc is future destiny of China
  • 2015 China-SL trade tops $ 4 b

Sri Lanka received a rare honour on 11 September of being the third economy ever in the world and the first South Asian economy to join the dominant China-ASEAN bloc’s high profile annual trade and investment event in Nanning, the modern capital of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, China.

“Under the One Belt, One Road framework, China’s ‘Go Global Strategy’ emphasised a greater importance to enhance trade, investment and economic cooperation with Sri Lanka,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, addressing the launch event of CAEXPO 13 at the Osmanthus Hall of Nanning International Convention & Exhibition Centre in Nanning.

Sri Lanka was among the 15 Chinese and ASEAN high profile leaders joining the CAEXPO 13. The opening session widely featured aspects of China-ASEAN FTA, China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road plans, as well as aspects of ‘China-ASEAN Advanced Technology Cooperation’ including Beidou satellite navigation, aerospace technology, high-speed modern railway, and unmanned auto manufacturing.

More importantly the large scale multi-country CAEXPO event also gave a glimpse of the future destiny and an eye-opener as to what lies ahead for the China-ASEAN bloc.

Launching China’s ASEAN connectivity initiative, leaders of China and 10 ASEAN countries also signed their names on the tickets for high-speed trains running between China and ASEAN, which is the proposed China-ASEAN direct connectivity strategy. Representing China, the event was attended by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

According to CAEXPO Secretariat, ‘CAEXPO Special Guest Country’ mechanism invites a country outside of the China-ASEAN region to join the CAEXPO as a Guest and is considered to be a strategic way for China to open to the (rest of) the globe.

So far only Australia and South Korea had been invited by China as CAEXPO Special Guest Countries and with its 11 September presence at the CAEXPO grand opening, Sri Lanka become the third country ever in the world and the first South Asian nation to be a CAEXPO Special Guest Country.

“Sri Lanka is honoured to join CAEXPO as a Special Guest Country and I thank the people of China for this invitation,” said Bathiudeen. “We welcome this initiative and we are here to invite Chinese business enterprises to explore more opportunities of economic cooperation and trade development in Sri Lanka. I believe that this Forum could play a pivotal role in strengthening existing relations between China and Sri Lanka.

“The ‘Social Market Economic Model’ as envisioned by the new Unity Government of Sri Lanka will propel and nuance the dynamics of Sri Lanka’s next stage of the economic development trajectory. These initiatives and consistency in our economic and trade liberalisation policies have brought Sri Lanka much closer with the global partners and in particular with China as a key development partner. Sri Lanka is placed at 68th rank in the Global Competitiveness Index 2015-2016 and the Sri Lankan Government has ambitious plans, to improve and advance this position it further.”

He noted that Sri Lanka’s strategic location as a connecting point of sea and air transport between east and west had been complimentary to the expansion in the trade with the world, pointing out that the Free Trade Agreements that Sri Lanka entered into with India and Pakistan have already become the key gateway platform for manufacturers and investors in Sri Lanka in accessing a sub-regional market with over 1.6 billion people.

“I invite Chinese and ASEAN investors to explore the opportunities presented by these key agreements, particularly into the diverse basket of value-added exports for which Sri Lanka obtains duty-free market access in the South Asia region. Sri Lanka’s strategic location, skilled labour force, business infrastructure, common law based legal system, highly-modernised sea port operations, recreational facilities and living standards have provided many opportunities for foreign investments. Sri Lanka is progressing towards becoming Asia’s hub for businesses, naval operations, commercial activities, knowledge based industries, aviation and energy developments. I am pleased that China continues to show interest in Sri Lanka as a dynamic and exciting investment destination, and would like to encourage further partnerships in this direction.”

Bathiudeen met Senior Official of Guangzhou Autonomous Province Liu Xin Wen on the sidelines. He was welcomed by awaiting Lankan exhibitors at Nanning Convention Centre for his soft-launch of CAEXPO Sri Lanka Pavilion and exports portfolio and he was interviewed by the Guanxi TV channel. He also addressed the afternoon Sri Lanka Investment Promotion Seminar organised by the Department of Commerce for keen Chinese investors.

The Sri Lankan official in China facilitating Bathiudeen’s delegation to CAEXPO13, Consul General Shanika Dissanayake (Head of Mission of Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Guangzhou who clinched the Special Guest Country status for Sri Lanka) and Bathiudeen’s Senior Advisor Himali Jinadasa also joined him at the Nanning opening session where Fortune 500 companies such as China Railway Engineering Corporation, China Railway Construction Corporation and Aluminium Corporation of China also were present.

Total bilateral trade between China and Sri Lanka topped $ 4 billion in 2015, with a steady growth of 14% from 2014’s $ 3.5 billion.


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