Government to improve export capacity | Daily News


National Export Strategy launched

Government to improve export capacity

The National Export Strategy (NES) will help increase the capacity of the export sector and improve trade performance, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

He was addressing the launch of the National Export Strategy, a five-year plan to increase and diversify Sri Lanka’s exports and harness Sri Lanka’s strategic position on east-west trade routes.

The plan aims to make Sri Lanka a trade hub in the Indian Ocean and to assist in achieving Sri Lanka’s goal of $28 billion in exports by 2022. Developed with the support of the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the European Union (EU), the plan has over 600 public and private sector stakeholders.

“This is not only a national export strategy, it is also a jobs and income strategy,” the Premier added.

The Prime Minister compared Sri Lanka’s economic progress to that of other countries in the region. “If you look at all the developed countries of Asia, they have done so by becoming export economies.” He pointed out that Sri Lanka opened up trade in 1977, but still lags behind countries such as Bangladesh, who opened up later. “We have given excuses for non-performance.

We haven’t looked at why we didn’t perform or why we haven’t given our people more employment,” the Premier said.

The Prime Minister also highlighted the development of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with a number of countries. “We have China who is talking over FTAs with us and we are talking about deepening FTAs with India,” he said, adding that someday, Sri Lanka will negotiate FTAs across the Bay of Bengal as well.

The NES will support traditional export industries and specifically focus on the development of six sectors: information technology and business process management; spices and concentrates; wellness tourism; processed food and beverages; boat building; and electronics and electrical components.

Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama assured stakeholders that the NES will positively impact all sectors, not just those listed.

Samarawickrama echoed the PM’s sentiment, looking to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan as models.

“Rapid development has taken place in those countries by liberalizing their trade policies and improving the ease of doing business,” he said. Paul Godfrey, Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation of the EU to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, stressed the importance of Sri Lanka’s curtailing corruption to gain trust from foreign investors.

“If the government is to achieve the ambition of Sri Lanka becoming a regional hub, there needs to be clear advantages for businesses basing their services in Sri Lanka,” he said. “Reforms have not impacted business perspective,” Godfrey added.

Arancha Gonzales, Executive Director at the ITC in Geneva praised the government for allocating the proper funds for NES in the national budget of 2018 and for appointing advisory committees under the Export Development Board (EDB) to coordinate implementation.

“The commitment of all key public and private institutions, from Hambantota in the south to Jaffna in the north, is a true demonstration of the Sri Lankan commitment to making the Island recognized for its export potential,” she said.

The ITC will offer continued support and assist in the implementation of the NES over the next five years. The government also plans to check in with exporters every six months to track progress. 

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