Kabul calls for first direct air corridor, investment pact to revive Sri Lanka trade

Mar 19, 2019 (LBO) – Afghanistan has called to open a direct air corridor with Sri Lanka by 25th March in a effort to push an Investment Protection and Promotion (IPP) pact with Colombo to revive lagging bilateral economic ties.

“The Government of Afghanistan launched the Air Corridor two years ago to take domestic goods to countries in the neighbourhood and beyond the region. As a result in 2018 we exported over US $ 1 Bn products,’ M. Ashraf Haidari, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka said .

‘We would like to extend this corridor to Sri Lanka, via a new corridor through South, all the way to Colombo.”

He made this comment while making a courtesy call  on Minister of Industry Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons and Cooperative Development,  Rishad Bathiudeen.

The proposed corridor is not coming via any other country but a direct air-link to Colombo and the Ambassador encourages SriLankan Airlines too to consider a direct flight to Afghanistan.

‘As far as an air service agreement is considered, we are ready to extend special lower tariff, landing rights depending on value, exemptions to Lankan businesses, easy business registration for Lankan businesses coming there as well as Afghani cargo coming to Colombo-even easy visas to Lankan travellers coming there,’

‘Kabul based airlines such as Ariana Afghan Airlines and Kam Air that are ready to come to Colombo. We need to exchange business delegations between both countries, as a start.’

He said that the Afganistan is proposing an Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement to kick-start bilateral investment and trade.

‘We are also proposing an Afghanistan-Sri Lanka Business Council, which will facilitate these bilateral B2B processes at business level-since ground level businesses know which products move both ways,’

‘The bilateral trade need not be limited to Air Corridor only but if necessary can be conducted through marine cargo as well-depending on product-wise cost effectiveness.”

The Ambassador adds  they are looking forward to Minister Bathiudeen signing the Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement representing Sri Lanka side.

‘We already have such pacts with India, Iran, Pakistan and some other countries in the region. As for air-corridors we already have such with India,  Central Asia, and China. Even Turkey and Finland are interested,’

‘It is time Sri Lanka joins us. By the way the air-corridor we propose towards Colombo is not an extension of our corridor with India but a dedicated link to Colombo.”

In its Doing Business 2019 report, the World Bank said Afghanistan to be one of the top 10 improvers in doing business alongside China, and India. Afghanistan climbed 16 positions in rankings from previous 2018 Report, to a new rank of 167.

Minister Bathiudeen said that he is pleased that his initial discussions in Colombo in August 2018  and that from Sri Lankan exporters’ point of view, Afghanistan is a virgin market with huge trade opportunities.

In 2017 Sri Lanka’s total trade with Afghanistan was less than US one million dollars and stood at US 820,000 dollars and Sri Lankan exports were at 700,000, slightly increasing from 2016’s US$ 630,000.

Printed books, newspapers and other printing industry products, were Sri Lanka’s major export to Kabul in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (68% of total Lankan exports to Kabul in 2017).