June 16, Colombo: Sri Lanka is keen to learn from Malaysia's expertise in halal certification in order to explore more opportunities and expand the country's economic growth, Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Malaysia, A.J.M Muzammil, has said.
He has said that the halal industry was an area that Sri Lanka needed to further tap into and that it could take the lead from Malaysia as its halal certification was highly regarded by the international community, Bernama reported.
"Malaysia is doing extremely well in this regard. This industry cannot be ignored and we are really looking forward to this because, in our country, people don't really understand the revenue that can be gained from this particular area," he has told Bernama in an interview at the news agency's headquarters, in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Citing the success stories of South Korea and Thailand as two of the world's top five suppliers of halal products, the newly appointed envoy said that Sri Lanka was aiming at establishing the same halal market industry in the country.
"Both non-Muslim countries have successfully developed their halal certification and therefore, I feel that Sri Lanka will need to develop certain products or food items (non-traditional food items especially) that are required by Malaysians in order to also entice more tourists to visit the country," he said.
To date, a total of 54 certification bodies from 32 countries and four authorities from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have managed to obtain halal certification from the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM). Halal Accreditation Council (HAC) Sri Lanka is one of these bodies that had also registered for Halal Certification Management System (HCMS).
Touching on tourism, Muzammil said that more efforts needed to be done to further increase the number of tourists visiting both countries, noting that some 100,000 Sri Lankans have visited Malaysia but only around 42,000 Malaysians visited Sri Lanka so far.
"We have an imbalance tourism sector now, thus we need to promote more with (maybe) an additional number of flights and be one of the transit destinations for tourists," he said.
As for the Malaysia-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which both countries have agreed to explore, Muzammil said that it was still awaiting response from the Sri Lankan government.
He said a negotiation team will be coming to Malaysia to finalize the FTA as early as possible which Sri Lanka is hoping to sign by July or August this year.
The envoy also said that Malaysian investors were encouraged to invest in Sri Lanka in sectors like infrastructure (road developments and highways), solid-waste management as well as hospital development (health center).
Malaysia and Sri Lanka have also agreed to explore the possibility of initiating the FTA, upon bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena during the latter's visit to Malaysia in December last year.
Bilateral trade between both countries amounted to US$570.9 million in 2015, in favor of Malaysia. Malaysia's exports to Sri Lanka totaled US$481 million in 2015 and imports amounted to US$90 million.
It was reported that Malaysia ranked fifth in terms of foreign investment value in Sri Lanka, accounting for US$2 billion until 2015.