China hails advent of peace
Will fast track Hambantota Port development, China’s
Commerce Minister tells Prof. Peiris in Beijing:
The Government of the People’s Republic of China, in recognition of
the unique opportunities now available in Sri Lanka for the development
of the economy, will accelerate implementation of the Hambantota port
project and other major initiatives, China’s Commerce Minister Chen
Deming assured Export Development and International Trade Minister Prof.
G.L. Peiris at their meeting in Beijing.
The 75-minute meeting, which was attended by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador
in China, Karunatilleke Amunugama covered a wide range of issues
relating to co-operation between the two countries.
Prof. Peiris conveyed to the Chinese Government the warm appreciation
of President Mahinda Rajapaksa for China’s consistent and vigorous
support in safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri
Lanka and for the assistance given towards the welfare of displaced
civilians. A consignment of tents worth RMB 20 million had been handed
over in Colombo at the end of May, the Minister said, while China had
also made a contribution of US$ 1 million.
Sri Lanka sought concessions to reduce the trade gap and to enhance
trade volumes under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement. As Sri Lanka’s
major exports to China are a few products such as tea, spices, rubber
products, coconut fibre, gems and jewellery, cosmetics, herbal products,
handicrafts and fish, Minister Peiris urged concessions comparable with
those enjoyed by ASEAN countries. He also suggested modalities for
expanding the number of products in the preferential duty category.
Minister Peiris emphasised that the tea trade in Sri Lanka is eager
to obtain an import quota for Sri Lankan tea to China at zero duty
Under the APTA regime, Sri Lanka tea is entitled to a preferential
tariff of 7.5 percent.
He urged Chinese investors to reap the benefits of the flexible
investment regime adopted by the Sri Lankan Government, especially in
the context of the Northern and Eastern Provinces Re-awakening Program
spearheaded by the Government for infrastructure projects relating to
roads, housing, water, electricity and tourism.
Minister Peiris referred to the visit by President Rajapaksa to the
Hainan Province in Southern China a few months ago to attend the Boao
Summit, and to President Rajapaksa’s discussions on that occasion with
Chinese President Hu Jin Tao at which both Prof.
Peiris and his Chinese counterpart were present. By way of follow up
to that discussion, Prof. Peiris warmly thanked the Chinese Government
for the valuable co-operation extended towards implementation of the
Hambantota Port Development Project, the Puttalam Thermal Power Project
and the Performing Arts Theatre.
He said that Sri Lanka looks forward to the benefits of technology
transfer from China for product development through value addition,
especially in the rubber and food processing sectors.
China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming told the Minister Prof. Peiris
that China greatly values her long and close friendship with Sri Lanka
and that, in the post-conflict scenario now developing in Sri Lanka,
closer collaboration in respect of the economy is entirely appropriate.
He assured the Sri Lankan Minister that existing projects, especially
those which would enable the benefits of peace to be realised in full,
will be put on a fast track.
The Chinese Government, he added, is ready to receive from Sri Lanka
proposals with regard to new projects which are now feasible in the
transformed situation, together with an indication of priorities.
Prof. Peiris delivered a keynote address at the inaugural session of
the Fourth China-South Asia Business Forum in Kunming, and was invited
to unveil the ceremonial plaque at the launching ceremony.
58 business leaders from Sri Lanka participated in the South Asian
Commodities Trade Exhibition.