Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera yesterday said that the government was negotiating three important trade agreements with India, China, and Singapore to gain further market access for exports. When this process concluded in a fruitful manner, our exports would have duty free access to 2.5 billion people in this region, Minister Samaraweera said
The Minister said so at a conference on “Applying New Technology to Make Sri Lanka’s International Trade More Efficient and Inclusive”, at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel.
The following is the text of Minister Samaraweera’s statement:
“Let me also thank the Australian Government for sharing their success stories with Sri Lanka. Australia’s accomplishments in utilizing modern technology in an innovative manner in economic and trade fields provide us a proven path, I must say.
This conference is timely because we aspire on repositioning Sri Lanka as a major trading economy in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka has been since ancient times a trading hub and it is only in the recent past that was regressed to an inward focus. But today, under the Unity Government, we strive to transform that trajectory and return to our original self as a trading nation in one of the most important sea routes in the Indo Pacific Region.
We have taken the first steps towards this process of re-orientation of the economy as market access to over half a billion population in the European Union was regained through the reestablishment of GSP +.
The results are already showing as total exports in the first 8 months of 2017 have grown by 7.6%. Through the GSP+ facility, seafood exports recorded 82% increase, while the apparels grew by 12.2% in August this year.
Tariff liberalization is only one part of the broader trade liberalization agenda. Today the major gains in trade liberalization are to be made in the process of trade facilitation by improving the efficiency of cross border transactions, and reducing the transaction costs of trade.
In order to realize Sri Lanka’s ambitions to become an Indian Ocean trading hub, it is essential that we streamline our trade processes to ensure efficiency, transparency, and integrity in a rule based environment.
With the support of our development partners, including Australia, Sri Lanka is in the process of implementing a National Single Window for trade facilitation, which would enable traders to fulfill all necessary procedures under one roof. This would make Sri Lanka a truly attractive destination for efficiency seeking export oriented FDI.
The future of trade facilitation is however in the application of modern technology. I am happy to note that there will be extensive sessions on Blockchain technology at this Conference. This technology has the potential to revolutionize trade finance by drastically cutting down the time taken for transactions, reduce the costs of intermediation, whilst ensuring security and process integrity.
Blockchain will no doubt disrupt traditional trade finance and can be a major boost for trade. Early movers will have a significant advantage – and I am confident that Sri Lanka’s financial sector is taking the message on board.