Aug 09, Colombo: As bilateral trade recorded a huge 65 percent surge, the non-European Union nation Switzerland has called on Sri Lanka to use its historic GSP facility and boost Lankan exports to Swiss market further.
During a meeting with the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen recently, Ambassador of Switzerland to Colombo Heinz Walker-Nederkoorn has said that Sri Lankan exporters should strive to exploit Switzerland's own Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) facility.
"Bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Switzerland shows a strong short term growth. Still that could be way below real potentials," Ambassador Walker-Nederkoorn noted.
The Ambassador pointing out that Switzerland is not a part of European Union and has implemented its own GSP since 1971, said Sri Lanka is still a beneficiary of a pioneering GSP facility that came in to being at the same time as the EU GSP.
"Sri Lankan exporters should strive to exploit this facility. Switzerland's economy has a well-developed service sector such as financial services. Still, Switzerland can take in merchandise products and there is a demand. Exploiting our GSP can help boost your exports and also increase total bilateral trade. Swiss manufacturing industry specializes in high-technology and production," he said.
According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)'s the Division of International Trade in Goods and Services and Commodities, the Swiss GSP facility that began in 1971, allows many Sri Lankan products to be exported totally tariff free to the Swiss market.
Among them are Sri Lankan apparels and some textiles, coconuts and desiccated coconuts, footwear, headgear, electrical machinery, certain fruits, tropical fruits and spices, live ornamental fish, certain types of freshwater fish, types of cut flowers and foliage, tomatoes, onions and garlic, cabbages and cauliflower, types of beans, sweet corn, chick peas and kidney beans, ginger, and even mustard and turmeric.
Minister Bathiudeen, responding to Ambassador Walker-Nederkoorn agreed that present bilateral trade is far below its real potential.
"Last year our annual trade increased by a very strong 65%. Therefore this is a good time to look at how Lankan exporters can use the Swiss GSP facility. Though Sri Lanka - Swiss bilateral trade is on a growing trend, there are vast unexplored potentials and the GSP facility can help us to overcome them," he said.
According to the Department of Commerce, in 2016 Sri Lanka's total exports to Switzerland was US$ 102.23 million. Interestingly, electronic machinery and electrical controls have been the main items of Lankan exports to Switzerland last year–around 44 % of the total exports.
"By using the Swiss GSP, we can expand our export basket with other products including foods, fruits and vegetables as well," the Minister of Industry and Commerce said.
According to the Department of Commerce, overall bilateral trade between Switzerland and Sri Lanka leaped by 65 percent to $ 377 million in 2016 (from 2015's $ 229 million). Sri Lanka's exports to Switzerland last year was around $ 102 Million, mostly unchanged from 2015's $ 101 Million. Out of that 24% was electronic equipment and another 19% was electrical controls. The third leading Lankan export to Switzerland was diamonds-11% of total exports in 2016.
Among the well-known Swiss investments in Sri Lanka are Nestl, A Baur & Co, Holcim, and Kuehne & Nagel.
Both Minister Bathiudeen and Ambassador Walker-Nederkoorn also delved into other aspects of bilateral cooperation during their meeting in Colombo.