Sri Lanka looking for new global trade opportunities unfolding in the aftermath of Brexit

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* Sri Lanka looking for new global trade opportunities unfolding in the aftermath of Brexit
Tue, Jun 28, 2016, 09:24 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

June 28, Colombo: Despite the sudden uncertainty in European market, Sri Lanka is eager for opportunities unfolding in the Brexit aftermath, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.

The new changes from Brexit gives an opening for Sri Lanka to go for a one-to-one trade agreement with UK and the country’s leading international trade agency Department of Commerce successfully enlists the World Trade Organization (WTO) to unravel new global opportunities for the country’s growing service exports, the Minister said addressing the inauguration of Trade in Services Workshop by the Department on Monday.

The interactive awareness seminar was supported by WTO and its Director of Trade in Services Division Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh attended the event. According to the Department of Commerce, the trade in services discourse is now taking place at multilateral level such as WTO and even Economic Partnership trading arrangements among member countries.

“We are witnessing historic developments taking place in global economic regions. We now know that the United Kingdom (UK) has voted to leave the European Union in Brexit. In this background, we need to look at our present trades with UK and European Union,” the Minister said.

Almost one third of Sri Lanka’s total exports to the world in 2015 went to European Union including exports to UK at US$ 3 billion. Exports to UK amounted to one billion dollars in 2015 growing by 17% since 2010.

According to Minister Bathiudeen, 80 percent of Sri Lanka’s exports to UK in 2015 were apparel, followed by footwear and Ceylon tea.

“When we remove UK export numbers in 2015, the total exports to EU are still a significant US$ two billion. Even if the actual post-Brexit separation will take place two years after activation of Article 50, we need to understand that Brexit is a new door that has opened but unlike many international other trade doors, we do not know where this (door) opening will lead to. On the other hand, both UK and EU are valuable trade partners to Sri Lanka. Not only in trade, both UK and EU support us in great many ways and are historic friends of Sri Lanka for which we are always thankful,” said Minister Bathiudeen.

“Therefore we keenly look forward to expand our trade with both these markets. In fact we shall look forward to strengthen bilateral trade as well as multiple other ways of cooperation with both UK and EU in future. The new changes bring opportunities for us. For example, it gives an opening for Sri Lanka to go for a one-to-one trade agreement with UK. I have no doubts that such a prospective agreement will enhance the global trade reform vision of the unity government.”

The visiting Director Trade in Services Division of WTO Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh, addressing the event said that services in trade is a promising sector. “Without services, manufacturing cannot take place,” he said and added: “Services are very broad in diverse areas and spread across logistics, ICT, professional services etc. Today services and their quality, is a determinant of a country�s competitiveness. The concept of trade in services only started after Uruguay GATT talks in 1986.”

Many economic data indicate that the service sector has considerable potential to the economies of developing countries-an economic growth driver. The 11% of world GDP that was trade in services ten years ago, has increased to 13.2%, by 2014.

Department of Commerce Director General Sonali Wijeratne, Policy Analyst from the WTO Trade in Services Division Evgeniia Zhuravleva, and many representatives from the private sector including exporters joined the seminar session.

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