Mar 08, Colombo: Sri Lanka's world class apparel industry which reported the highest export earnings in history last year, needs high tech digitalization to advance further, Minister of industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.
Addressing the first Senior Policymakers' Workshop on Digital Trade and Industrialization series by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for member countries on Thursday in Colombo, Minister Bathiudeen said Sri Lanka faces a number of challenges in digitalization.
"These include slower growth of digital skills, and the need to successfully digitalize the export sectors including apparel. Our understanding is that industrialization and manufacturing are drivers of growth in Sri Lanka's international trade," the Minister said.
Minister Bathiudeen said Sri Lanka's apparels, a major manufacturing export, is world class and the sector has reported biggest export earnings in history last year at US$ 4.8 billion, a 3% increase from 2016 and the sector needs digitalization support for its advancement
He added that the UNCTAD initiative acknowledges E-Commerce as a tool to drive growth, narrow the digital divide and generate digital solutions for Developing and Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
The multilateral trading system has recognized that digitalization has its positive impact on trade and has included it in their agendas. Along with nine other countries Sri Lanka has signed up as a member of the group on 'Friends of E-Commerce for Development', Minister Bathiudeen noted.
"UNCTAD believes that the value of global e-commerce is huge -which was $ 25 trillion in 2015 and continuing to grow. UNCTAD also says that e-commerce has great impacts on the world economy. What is important here is that Sri Lanka should not miss this global e-commerce opportunity. In this background today's session holds special significance for the Asian developing countries including Sri Lanka," he said praising the Department of Commerce for joining UNCTAD in the global initiative.
UNCTAD Senior Researcher Dr. Rashmi Banga said the UN agency's first ever policy session on Digitalization of Trade and Industrials Policy unveiled in Colombo today aims to build policy capacity of the countries, especially forging South - South cooperation.
"A completed digitalization of Trade and Industrials Policy helps a country especially when that country enters any trade agreements," Banga said.
The two-day workshop concluding on 9 March will include working sessions on e-commerce data inclusion, e-commerce in WTO framework, digital infrastructure development in South Asia, Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and digitalization of South, WTO's Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and digitalization, regional digital cooperation in South, and country perspectives on digital trade and the WTO.