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S’pore- SL FTA on the cards

Visiting Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will meet Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today after expressing the confidence of the Singaporean government to enter into a Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka before the end of the year.

Briefing the press after bilateral discussions held yesterday with his Sri Lankan counterpart Ravi Karunanayaka at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Colombo, Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister Balakrishnan said, “one component of the conclusion of our negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement between Sri Lanka and Singapore is that we try to complete before the end of the year.”

He said Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement will be a modern comprehensive high-quality and ambitious Agreement that will demonstrate to the world that both two countries are open for business and that we welcome foreign investments.

“We believe should the envisioned FTA should enter into force, Singapore can serve as Sri Lanka’s gateway in South East Asia, and Sri Lanka, our gateway in the Indian Ocean,” he pointed out and added “This will be an example of a win-win outcome for both sides.”

“During our discussions Minister Ravi Karunanayaka suggested that Sri Lanka should pursue a “hub diplomacy,”which will be open to the rest of the world.

“I comfortably agree with Minister Karunanayaka on the subject because Sri Lanka indeed is a hub of transshipment and economic ties across the Indian Ocean,” he said. .

“Singapore is a hub in South East Asia. We are complementary, but not competitive.”

He said, “bigger the pipeline we build to connect these two hubs, Sri Lanka and Singapore, greater the opportunities we will have created for us in the region,” he said.

“I am encouraged to see the rapid developments in Colombo and to see how the government is capitalizing this by pushing reforms and economic engagements with the rest of the world,” he said.

“Because of this there is a there is a surge of interest on the part of Singapore companies in Sri Lanka because they can see for themselves the growth potential in this place. In fact there are more than 350 Singaporean companies currently in Sri Lanka engaged in activities in wide range of sectors including food and beverage, manufacturing, IT, cyber security and power,” he said.” “We hope to see more of these business to business collaborations,”Minister Karunanayaka added.

He said, “Incumbent on both governments is the need to create conducive climate for businesses. The businesses look forward towards stability, predictability and reliability. We have reached a conclusion to enter into a Singapore - Sri Lanka FTA before the end of the year.”

Singapore is happy to play a modest role in supporting the Sri Lankan government’s development and reform agenda.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayaka said, he and his Singaporean counterpart Balakrishnan discussed on various areas of mutual interest to both countries including economic and development corporation between the two countries, tourism, people to people contact ,cultural corporation, defense and maritime corporation, reconciliation as well as corporation in the region.

We discussed particularly on the proposed Sri Lanka –Singapore FTA to be signed before the latter part of 2017. The Singaporean government has conveyed their confidence and the commitment to enter into it.

“I expressed my deeper appreciation for the trading opportunities offered to Sri Lanka by Singapore,” the minister said.

“We conveyed the investment opportunities available for Singapore in the ongoing mega projects in the country, such as the Colombo International Financial City Project, Western Province Megapolis Development Project and Trincomalee District Development Project,” said Karunanayaka.