South Africa desires balance in trade ties, willing to consider slashing tariffs for tea exports

The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) warmly received the outgoing South African High Commissioner in Colombo, Robina P. Marks to address the ‘Sri Lanka – South Africa Business Promotion Meeting’ on 14 December, 2020.

Delivering the opening remarks, High Commissioner Marks said that South Africa has been able to expand its trade footprint in Sri Lanka and that overall trade stood hugely in favour of her country. South Africa is Sri Lanka’s largest source of imports and the second largest export destination in the African region. Imports from South Africa largely consists of coal and Sri Lankan exports comprise of bulk tea, apparel, and rubber products.

Commenting further on bilateral trade ties in the COVID-19 era, the High Commissioner underscored the need to recalibrate its trade strategy in Sri Lanka and the desire for a more balanced trade relationship between the two countries. “Even though national interest is important to all countries, we do want a more balanced trade between Sri Lanka and South Africa. We think that its important because we both need to work on the basis that each have something to offer in this bilateral relationship,” she added.

Addressing concerns over market access for Sri Lankan tea, the High Commissioner said “we would consider, possibly, a request to lower for a period of time not exceeding three years, tea tariffs … to give some relief to Sri Lanka … in the spirit of supporting developing countries become sustainable as they can be.”

In terms of investment, High Commissioner Marks said that international retail brand, SPAR, through a joint venture between SPAR Group Ltd South Africa and Ceylon Biscuits Limited has opened four outlets in Sri Lanka with plans to expand up to 20 retail stores.

During the meeting, High Commissioner Marks also exchanged views with representatives of the Sri Lankan businesses community on the possibility of boosting fish exports to South Africa, value addition and knowledge sharing in the gem and jewellery industry, opportunities in the renewable energy sector and sharing expertise in food preservation in the canning industry.

The virtual meeting was organised on the request of the Foreign Minister, and the Chairman of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategics Studies, Dinesh Gunawardena. Kosala Wickramanayake, member of the Board of Management of LKI and the President of the International Business Council in Sri Lanka;  Benjamin Jourdaan, Country Manager, Asia, Wesgro;  Nadine Smith-Clarke, Manager, International Trade Development, Wesgro; Shiran Fernando, Chief Executive Officer, Tess PLC;  Armil Sammoon, Chairman, Sapphire Capital and Ruvinika Kinigama, Director, Marketing, Ranfer Group attended the meeting.

Foreign Ministry