Sri Lanka-Thai FTA expected by middle of next year: Thai Commerce Minister


Hon. Sujeewa Senasinghe, State Minister of International Trade, visited Thailand from 25th to 27th May 2016. The main objective of the visit was to pursue trade and investment opportunities including familiarization with AMATA Corporation’s expertise in establishing industrial parks considering Sri Lanka’s requirement of such facilities.

State Minister Senasinghe had meetings with the Thai Ministers of Industry and also Commerce, HE Atchaka Sibunruang and HE Apiradi Tantraporn respectively, Secretary General of the Thai Board of Investment, Ms. Hirunya Suchinai and the Joint Standing Committee of Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB).

During the meetings the Minister explained the socio economic improvements and business friendly initiatives of Sri Lanka implemented by the new government which are favorable attractions to Foreign Direct Investments. He outlined that the existing Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreements with India and Pakistan, lifting the ban on fisheries by the EU and the government’s initiatives to regain the GSP plus provide great opportunities for the new investors.

He further explained that the government of Sri Lanka plans to establish 40 new industrial zones, each one being dedicated to an industry. The approval system for investments is being streamlined, he said, and it is expected to reduce the approval period to 2-3 months. The State Minister pointed out that the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka has developed a land bank recently, which features lands that can be provided to investors. The Minister indicated the possibility to provide a dedicated zone for Thailand considering the extensive potential to further strengthen the entrepreneurial ties.

Minister Senasinghe identified areas of food processing, gem and jewellery, industrial products, fisheries sector and post-harvest packaging as requiring technical assistance. It was noted that packaging in Sri Lanka is at a early stage with 50% of the harvest perishing before it reaches the final consumer. The Minister suggested that a technical school covering identified areas be established by Thailand in Sri Lanka. The Minister of Industry of Thailand requested for a proposal to be submitted on the areas requiring training and technical assistance.

Reference was also made to invite a delegation to visit Thailand in June 2016 for a Gem and Jewellery designing training course conducted by the Gem and Jewellery Institute of Thailand (GIT). 

Following up on the proposal during the recent visit to Sri Lanka by Thai Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Somkid Jatusripitak, to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries, Hon. Minister Senasinghe requested the Thai Commerce Minister to seek the conclusion of such a mechanism at the earliest. The Thai Minister enumerated the process to be followed in this regard, and the timeline indicated was the middle of next year. She informed that the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation could meet in September 2016 in Bangkok, where the areas for the FTA could be identified, as the first step.

The State Minister had occasion to meet with Mr. Vikrom Kromadit, Founder of AMATA Corporation PLC, being the largest listed conglomerate in the industrial estate sector of Thailand accounting for 10% of that country’s GDP. At this meeting the State Minister and Mr. Kromadit examined the potential contribution to the development of Sri Lanka through industrial parks. Mr. Kromadit while sharing his vision for economic development between Sri Lanka and Thailand, surmised that Sri Lanka is well poised to attract industrial sector investment, which should be pursued in earnest.

Participants at the meetings including the private sector were briefed on the ITC-Geneva organized World Export Development Forum (WEDF) to be held in Colombo, from 12th -13th October 2016.

During the meeting with the Joint Standing Committee of Commerce, Industry and Banking, over twenty Thai companies representing areas of hospitality industry, sugar, beverages, plastics, fabrics, cement, and banking, expressed their satisfaction on the new socio economic environment of Sri Lanka at present. Interest was expressed to forge collaboration in the areas of sugar refinery, coconut, cinnamon, fabric, establishment of schools for hospitality training and vocational education.

Hon. Senasinghe was accompanied by Mr. M.K.D. Lawrance of the BOI and Mr. Prasad Daluwatta of the EDB who were associated with the meetings together with officials from the Sri Lanka Embassy in Thailand. (Press release)