Aug 27, Minsk: During the bilateral discussions held between visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Belarus Prime Minister Prof. Mikhail Myasnikovich Monday in Minsk Sri Lanka and Belarus have identified several potential areas for joint ventures.
Some of the areas discussed for potential joint ventures included manufacturing of tractors, trucks, busses, and agricultural and military equipment as well as other items such as dairy products, shoes and baby food.
"The Sri Lankan President's Belarus tour marks a new era of relations between the two countries," Prime Minister Myasnikovich said as he began the bilateral discussions.
He said the good relations the two countries already share can be further improved and both countries have the right conditions to make it possible.
President Rajapaksa responded by saying that Sri Lanka is also determined to work towards strengthening relations with Belarus. The Sri Lankan President is on a three-day state visit to the East European country.
The business forum that was organized in parallel with President Rajapaksa's visit provides a good platform to fulfill the aspirations of both countries, the Belarus Prime Minister said while noting that cooperation should not be limited to the economy and trade.
Prime Minister Myasnikovich suggested several other areas for potential cooperation such as monetary management, technology, power and energy, education and culture. He also pointed out that both countries could benefit from joint ventures where Sri Lankan-made goods can be sold not only in the Belarus market but also in other markets in the region.
While expressing his gratitude for the hospitality extended by Belarus to him and the Sri Lankan delegation, President Rajapaksa praised the economic development that Belarus has been able to achieve in recent years.
Speaking about the conditions at home, President Rajapaksa said the 30-year war that caused great destruction to the country is now over and Sri Lanka is rapidly moving forward along a development path.
The President also briefed the Prime Minister of the range of attractive incentives and facilities that are now available in Sri Lanka for foreign direct investment. He also informed Prime Minister Myasnikovich of the new port and airport facilities available in Hambantota in the southern part of the country while noting that Sri Lanka plans to set up a free trade zone in that area as well.
The President said investors from Belarus can take advantage of these facilities to start projects in Sri Lanka suggesting few possible areas such as assembly of buses, trucks and equipment for security forces, medicinal drug production and education.
President Rajapaksa said investors will have the advantages of Sri Lanka's high literacy rate and its highly skilled workforce.
While briefing Prime Minister Myasnikovich of Sri Lanka's sports sector, President Rajapaksa requested for assistance from Belarus to organize training in the fields of athletics and football.
In order to enhance people-to-people interactions, President Rajapaksa stressed the importance of establishing direct flights between the two countries.
Speaking about the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre that he was able to visit in Minsk, President Rajapaksa requested for assistance from Belarus to construct a similar structure in Sri Lanka.
The President expressed his confidence that the Belarus government would give high priority to successfully implement the agreements signed between the two countries.
Prime Minister Myasnikovich indicated that there are currently about 200 Sri Lankan students pursuing higher education in Belarus, and he expressed his government's willingness to provide up to 250 university scholarships for Sri Lankan students.
Following the bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Myasnikovich, President Rajapaksa attended the launch of the Sri Lanka - Belarus Business Forum at the National Library in Minsk.
The forum, which was attended by Sri Lankan and Belarus business delegations, had been organized to identify potential areas for collaboration in order to further develop economic and trade cooperation.
Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris further described the attractive options available in Sri Lanka for foreign direct investment, and the two countries signed an agreement on investment promotion.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko hosted a banquet on Monday evening in honor of his Sri Lankan counterpart. Sri Lankan delegation and Belarus officials also attended the function.
Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Russia accredited to Belarus Udayanga Weeratunga, and Provincial Council members Somawansa Kodagoda, Arjuna de Silva, Nauzer Fowzie and Additional Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs Mrs. Kshenuka Seneviratne were also present at the discussions with the Belarusian Prime Minister.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)