Consul General of Sri Lanka Jagath Abeywarna has said that despite good diplomatic relations for the last 75 years and also a Free Trade Agreement since 2005, Sri Lanka-Pakistan trade volume stays ‘insignificant’ at US$440 million due to certain barriers preventing trade between the two countries. “Pakistan’s exports to Sri Lanka stood at US$360 million, and Sri Lankan exports remained at US$80 million. To enhance this trade, FTA has to be revisited. In contrast, some kind of a mechanism must also be devised to facilitate transactions between exporters and importers of both countries facing dire shortage of foreign currency. As we both are going through difficult economic situation, hence, we have to come closer to each other and help each other to come out of ongoing economic crises” he added while speaking at a meeting during his visit to Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI).
President KCCI Iftikhar Ahmed Sheikh, Senior Vice President Altaf A. Ghaffar, Vice President Tanveer Ahmed Barry, Former President Majyd Aziz and KCCI Managing Committee Members attended the meeting.
Sri Lankan CG noted that Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been enjoying good friendly and brotherly relations and the two countries are celebrating 75 years of diplomatic relations this year. “Various activities have been planned in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore to mark 75 years of Sri Lanka-Pakistan diplomatic relations”, said Jagath Abeywarna, “Pakistan has been a long-term partner of Sri Lanka and in 70s, it was number one buyer of Sri Lankan products particularly Ceylon tea which, unfortunately, is no more being exported to Pakistan as the importers here are now importing tea from Kenya and other countries.”
Underscoring the need to enhance trade and economic cooperation, Sri Lankan CG said that private sectors’ collaboration through participation in trade fairs and regular exchanges of trade delegations were very essential to achieve the common goal of improved trade ties. “There are several sectors which can promote trade between the two countries including pharmaceutical, fabrics, leather etc. which are being imported by Sri Lanka. We can also provide construction materials, ceramics, fall ceiling, cosmetics, rubber-based products and agricultural products to Pakistan”, he added.
While assuring Sri Lanka’s maximum participation in next year’s My Karachi Exhibition, he said that 10 companies participated in this year’s My Karachi Exhibition and at the same time, a delegation from Ceylon Chamber also visited Karachi which was fully facilitated by KCCI. He also requested to arrange visit of KCCI’s delegation to Sri Lanka which will be fully facilitated by the Sri Lankan Consulate in Karachi.
Earlier, President KCCI Iftikhar Ahmed Sheikh, while welcoming the Sri Lankan CG, stated that despite signing FTA in 2005, Pakistan’s exports to Sri Lanka remained stagnant which stood at $284 million in FY23 as compared to $375 million in FY22, representing a negative growth of around 24% year-on-year basis which needs to be enhanced to a reasonable level.
“Pak-Sri Lanka should work together to expand their domestic markets, through commercial cooperation which is an important prerequisite for accelerating economic development and establish a Free Trade Area for the purpose of free movement of goods & services, besides reducing barriers to promote imports and exports”, he added.
He was of the view that Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been facing dollar shortages due to low foreign exchange reserves cover. Therefore, a two-way currency SWAP arrangement should be pursued in which both countries can swap their local currencies in exchange for dollars which would further strengthen their financial cooperation and deepen their economic relationship.