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* Sri Lanka, Belarus look to enhance trade ties, form a Joint Economic Commission soon
Fri, May 23, 2014, 11:55 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

May 23, Colombo: Sri Lanka and Belarus have discussed establishing a joint economic commission (JEC) soon to enhance the trade ties between the two countries.

As Sri Lanka's bilateral trade with Belarus more than doubled in 2013 from the levels in 2010, Belarus is eager to set up a joint economic commission (JEC) as early as in July this year.

Vitaly Prima, the New Delhi based Ambassador of Belarus to Sri Lanka during a meeting with the Sri Lankan Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiyutheen conveyed Belarus's intentions to enhance trade relations.

"With your assistance, we want to prepare fruitful projects with Sri Lanka. We propose a Joint Economic Commission with Sri Lanka as early as July 2014 to be held in Colombo, if possible. We also can formulate the first Belarus Business delegation to Colombo during this event as per your interest" Prima said addressing an official team led by the Minister at the meeting on 22 May in Colombo.

Belarus, the gateway to the 170-million strong Eurasian Economic Community Customs Union, remains a virgin market for Sri Lanka.

According to the Department of Commerce, bilateral trade between both countries stood at US$ 14.2 million in 2013 with volumes more than doubling from its US$ 7 million levels in 2010.

The Customs Union of Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus is reportedly keen for its expansion, with new regional members.

Sri Lanka's major export to Belarus is tea, amounting to 90% of the total exports. Gloves, tires and raw tobacco are other exports. A major portion (95%) of Sri Lanka's imports from Belarus is potash fertilizers.

Minister Bathiyutheen noted that Belarus, as one of the key dairy economies in the world can help Sri Lanka to develop the dairy industry in the country.

"We understand that Belarus is a dairy leader in the world. Therefore we welcome your support to our dairy sector. Stronger powdered milk manufacturing capacity for Sri Lanka is the need of the hour and can help us to cut down on our huge annual milk powder" said the Minister.

Ambassador Prima, responding to Minister Bathiyutheen, said Belarus can support developing Sri Lanka's dairy sector-and not only on a single aspect such as powdered milk production but in its entire value chain.

"We shall favorably consider your request in this regard," the Ambassador said.

Both Ambassador Prima and Minister Bathiyutheen also explored other possible areas of bilateral cooperation.

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