China’s massive OBOR hub for Asia bullish on Sri Lanka FTA

Apr 25, 2018 (LBO) – The South East Asian Gateway Province to mainland China’s ambitious One Belt-One Road (OBOR) initiative voiced its impatience to witness the historic Sri Lanka – China FTA’s take-off – so that bigger bilateral trade would become a reality soon.

“Currently total bilateral trade between Yunnan and Sri Lanka is only US 18 million dollars. The Sri Lanka – China Free Trade Agreement is a major step between both countries, and this FTA will open new trade potentials for Sri Lanka with Yunnan as well as China,” said Gao Shuxun, a member of the Communist Party Committee of the Yunnan Provincial People’s Government and Advisor to Yunnan Government on 23 April in Colombo.

Yunnan Government’s Advisor Shuxun (who was once a Vice-Governor of the Province) was addressing Sri Lankan Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen with members of his official delegation to Colombo.

Advisor Shuxun is promoting  this year’s 5th China South Asia Expo (CSAE) and 25th China Kunming Import Export Fair (CKIEF) to be held from 14-20 June in Kunming.

he also extended his official CSAE and CKIEF invite to Sri Lanka by handing over them to Minister Bathiudeen.

Yunnan is also the closest Chinese province to Sri Lanka-and to the rest of South Asia.

“Yunnan Government is also keen for partnering with Sri Lanka in agro, bio-pharma, tourism sectors as well as cooperation in plant breeding and development” said Advisor Shuxun.

The $ 235 Bn GDP southern province Yunnan was China’s 23rd provincial economy in 2016. Yunnan is considered to be fast growing economy and a logistical hub, with Kunming’s connectivities. It is the closest Chinese province to Sri Lanka with just a four hour direct flight time. Yunnan is also considered as pivotal in China’s ambitious One Belt-One Road (OBOR) initiative and said to be “the OBOR Gateway to South East Asia” (As a result, activities of 2017’s CSAE and CKIEF had a major focus on OBOR). The OBOR land links from mainland that terminates in Singapore are directed through the Kunming logistical hub.

Minister Bathiudeen praised Yunnan Government Advisor Shuxun’s interest on Sri Lanka-China FTA. “Both countries will benefit from this FTA. Under the leadership of HE President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, we are now working to finalise the FTA. We believe there will be significant economic benefits to Sri Lanka from the FTA since China is a global trade power.  Lanka-China total trade too has been on the rise, which is a positive trend. I and my officials will extend our fullest support to Yunnan investors to partner in the proposed sectors here” said Minister Bathiudeen.

According to the Department of Commerce, Sri Lanka’s total trade with China in 2016 was $ 4.47 Billion and in 2017 it increased by 3 percent to US 4.60 billion dollars.

Almost 95 percent of these annual bilateral trade consists of imports from China to Sri Lanka, something that Sri Lanka is keen to adjust through the new FTA.