Aug 27, Colombo: More than 130 Lankan private sector representatives from 125 companies attended a Seychelles business forum inaugurated in Colombo today.
Addressing the inauguration of "Seychelles Trade and Investment Forum-Sri Lanka: Fostering Economic Partnership" event organized by the EDB on Wednesday (27) in Colombo Minister Rishad Bathiyutheen said Today's event can be a stepping stone for more bilateral trade between both countries, which is an urgent need at this moment.
"The total bilateral trade has been low at only US$3.7 million. Today's initiative therefore is a major step in this direction" said Bathiyutheen.
More than 130 Lankan private sector representatives from 125 companies packed the three hour long in-depth session of presentations.
Seychelles' 20 member delegation is led by Minister for Finance, Trade and Investment of Seychelles Pierre Laporte and joined by CEO of Seychelles Investment Board Rupert Simeon.
Addressing the event, Minister Bathiudeen said: "Being Indian Ocean Islands, both countries share many long standing issues, trends, as well as benefits, that are similar in nature with historic friendship. Relations between Seychelles and Sri Lanka became stronger after the visits of Heads of States from both countries to each other's starting in 2010. The visit of President of Seychelles James Michel to Sri Lanka four years ago around this time in 2010, followed by our President Mahinda Rajapasa's visit to Seychelles in 2013 and this June, as well as the opening of Sri Lanka High Commission in Seychelles this year have brought bilateral cooperation and understanding to new levels. It is important for us to discover in what context this bilateral trade and business cooperation would be placed–in and how a Forum of this nature could be leveraged. I believe that there are many avenues and possibilities but an important answer is in the gateway synergies of both countries. In that, just as Seychelles is the gateway of investment and trade to African continent, Sri Lanka too is the hub and the gateway to the more than 1.2 billion South Asian market. It is time that investors and businesses at both sides, make use of these potentials.
"Today's business forum is a way to unlock these bigger opportunities. For example Seychelles investors, entering Sri Lanka can consider manufacturing partnerships here and make use of our FTAs with India and Pakistan, to access the South Asian markets. I am pleased that today's event can be a stepping stone for more bilateral trade, which is an urgent need at this moment.
"The total bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Seychelles has been low at only $3.7 Million in 2013. Main products exported from Sri Lanka include, tea, fishing vessels, cereals and sausages, and the main import from, Seychelles are some spices. We believe that our gems and jewellery, furniture, other types of vessels, seafood and plastic products, to have strong potential in Seychelles market. It is time we find ways to increase this, low bilateral trade and today's initiative, is a major step in this direction. I think we could both agree that, connectivity too is an important component to enhance cooperation between us. Mihin Airlines commenced flights to Seychelles last November and SriLankan Airlines too has code share arrangements, between Sri Lanka and Seychelles. Equally important is maritime cooperation.
"Jean Paul Adam, the Foreign Minister of Seychelles who paid a courtesy call on me in 2012 April, informed me that Sri Lanka has become, Seychelles' ship building hub, which is good news for us. We have almost 25 active boat yards delivering high standard vessels. Of this 25, six are directly exporting their boats. This is yet another promising investment opening for Seychelles investors. I am pleased to say our annual boat exports around the world have increased by 45% to $ 82Mn in 2013. Despite several leading Lankan business enterprises, such as Bank of Ceylon, Nawaloka, and Sri Lanka Insurance, have actively investing in Seychelles, we observe that Seychelles investors are yet to partner here.
"Therefore we invite Seychelles investors to partner with us and begin investing here. We allow 100% ownership for foreign investors, profit repatriation, as well as constitutional guarantee of safety for global investors. Specifically, Seychelles investors can, leverage such synergies as travel and tourism, fisheries, boats as well as maritime cooperation with Sri Lanka. Seychelles' previous experience in creating joint Seychelles-Africa tour packages can help formulate Seychelles-South Asia travel packages via Sri Lanka. I also invite "Seychelles Tourism" to tap the surging Sri Lankan tourist market."
According to the Department of Commerce, the total bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Seychelles was reported at $3.7 million in 2013. As for COMESA, it began in 1994 and currently has 21 member states (Angola, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) opening an African market of 390 million.
Addressing the event, Minister Laporte said: "I have been following Sri Lanka closely. We are impressed by Sri Lanka's development. Seychelles and Sri Lanka share similarities and has a special friendship. The bilateral cooperation has seen renewed momentum in exchange of expertise in various fields such as education health maritime nautical services legal aviation and defence. Our government is committed to further strengthen the affinity of people of Seychelles and Sri Lanka. We continue to overcome the constraints shared by us as Island nations. Given our strategic location at East of Africa, South of Asia and the Middle East, Seychelles in very accessible and open for business. We continue to attract investors from all parts of the globe. We hope today's forum can create opportunities for both countries. We see ample opportunities in key sectors such as tourism, industries, fisheries, renewable energy, financial services, agriculture etc. With the recent provision of offshore financial services, our financial services have grown. Our close collaboration with OECD countries will ensure that our country will follow highest standards once we accede to WTO. We have seen an improvement in the quality of our human resources recently. We have a network of membership to Indian Ocean Commission and Indian Ocean Ring. We are vigorously engaged in signing agreements with countries of African continent as the gateway to Africa. This Forum today is also an effort to extend our international cooperation opportunities. This is the first that we organised this year. I hope this forum will entice you to commence business with Seychelles. I convey my gratitude to government of Sri Lanka-specially to the Minister and Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka as well as the External Affairs Ministry of Sri Lanka."
Bandula Egodage (Chairman & CEO-EDB), addressing the event said: "This is a remarkable milestone. EDB is entrusted with enhancing exports of the country. The three objectives of this Forum by EDB are to create awareness on investment opportunities at both countries for each other, provide information on potential trade opportunities and thirdly, find networking opportunities."