Istanbul Chamber of Industry Addresses Opportunities in Sri Lanka During The Country Day
Istanbul Chamber of Industry (ISO) held the Sri Lanka Country Day and Opportunities for Turkey Seminar with a view to contribute to the economic relations between Turkey and Sri Lanka. During the meeting held at the InterContinental Hotel, industrialists and business people interested in investment and trade with Sri Lanka enjoyed the opportunity to have a closer understanding of the country.
During his opening speech, Sadik Ayhan Saruhan, the Treasurer of the ISO Board of Directors stated that the economic relations between Turkey and Sri Lanka proceeded at a very low level. Underlining that the export volume between the two countries was realized around 157 million USD in 2016, Saruhan linked this situation to the low level of acquaintance between the two counties. Saruhan reminded that Sri Lanka had assigned a consul general in charge of trade relations during the Ottoman Empire in 1884, emphasizing the strong ties rooted in the past. Saruhan underscored the urgent need to revitalize these strong ties through similar meetings and visits both today and in the future.
Saruhan said, “Though it is one of the least known markets in Turkey, Sri Lanka’s economy has been growing since 2009. The country has free trade agreements with India and Pakistan and plans to sign trade agreements with China, South Asian countries, and Singapore in the near future. These will create important opportunities and advantages for Turkish companies as well. Furthermore, tea is one of the commonalities between our countries: Sri Lanka ranks the 4th whereas Turkey ranks the 5th in the global tea production. Tea holds a significant place in the culture of both countries. Therefore, we believe we can devise joint projects in several areas regarding tea.”
The next speaker in the event, P. M. Amza, Ambassador to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, said that the relations between the countries date back to much earlier than the establishment of the Republic of Turkey and the independence of Sri Lanka in 1948. Amza stated that the deep ties should be extended to cover the economic arena and emphasized the growth potential in trade. He touched upon the target of Turkey-Sri Lanka Joint Economic Commission to grow the trade volume to 500 million USD by 2020. He also shared that the two countries are negotiating 10 new agreements in various areas including agriculture, defense, science, environment and regulation, and prevention of double taxation.
Noting that Sri Lanka invests in many new fields, Amza voiced their wish to see Turkish companies in these development projects. Commenting that there are mutual flights between the two countries almost on a daily basis and an increase in tourism, Amza emphasized that the figures were still below coveted levels. Mentioning the liberalization of the Sri Lankan economy, he underscored the government’s clear goal to boost foreign direct investments. Explaining that they are one of the oldest democracies of the world, Amza said that they lifted customs duty for more than 4000 products upon free trade agreements signed with India and Pakistan. Amza underlined that they were having negotiations with China and Singapore as well, and in case the outcome is positive Sri Lanka will capture the opportunity to reach a 2.5 billion population exempt from customs duty.
Later a panel was held to discuss the Trade and Investment Relations between Turkey and Sri Lanka. Speaking at the panel, Renuka Weerakone, Executive Director of Sri Lanka Board of Investment said that Sri Lanka is a country with a stable democracy. Weerakone shared the investment opportunities and the facilities for foreign investment in their country. He said that English was spoken widely across the country. He added that they allowed the foundation of companies with 100% foreign capital and allowed the opportunity to rent the investment land up to 99 years for free. Weerakone stressed that foreign investors rights are protected by the constitution.
Weerakone remarked that Sri Lanka enjoys top-notch healthcare services and education, outperforming countries like India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam in the UN Human Development Index. Saying that they will reach an employment of 200.000 people in the IT industry by 2020, Weerakone added that there would be major investments in the fields of logistics, tourism, industrial zones and technology following the Megapolis project.
Anoma Premathilake, Market Development Director of Sri Lanka Export Development Board gave information about the foreign trade composition of Sri Lanka. Stating that the highest volumes of exports are with the US, England and India, Premathilake noted that the highest import volumes on the other hand are with China, India, and the UAE. Highlighting Sri Lanka’s experience in seafaring, he noted that they could engage in joint investments with Turkey, which is a leading country in this area. He said that their institution was ready to help business people who would like to invest in and trade with Sri Lanka, a country enjoying a strategic location.
The following speaker, Setenay Iyigun, expert from the Directorate of Agreements in the Ministry of Economy gave information about the economic and commercial relations between the two countries and the the activities of the Ministry regarding Sri Lanka. Iyigun mentioned that Sri Lanka hosts 2 million tourists each year and has 2 million workers employed in the Gulf and Middle East countries. Iyigun stated that the Turkey-Sri Lanka Joint Economic Commission held on November 10-11, 2016 was the first commercial meeting between the two countries after 27 years, and talked about the Turkey-Sri Lanka Friendship Village project whereby TIKA (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency) helps out a village hit by terrorism.
In the panel titled “Experiences of Turkish Companies in Sri Lanka”, Beta Tea Food Industry and Trade Company Chairman and DEIK (Foreign Economic Relations Board) Turkey-Sri Lanka Business Council Chairman Besir Ugur, Mex Logistics Ltd. Company General Manager and CEO Rohan Sivanathan and Uluer Group Chairman of Board, Dr. Mahmut Uluer shared their experiences regarding Sri Lanka. The speeches were followed by a Q&A session.