Singapore and Sri Lanka: Partners in a Fast Growing Region
23 January 2018
The much-touted and freshly-signed Free Trade Agreement between Sri Lanka and Singapore (SLSFTA) gives Sri Lankan businesses an opportunity to access not just Singaporean markets, but the larger ASEAN markets, especially in the e-commerce platform, highlighted Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, S. Iswaran.
The visiting foreign Minister was optimistic about the new trade and investment avenues opened up by the FTA, during the ISAS Colombo Colloquium, co-hosted by IPS. Held on 23 January 2018, soon after the agreement was signed, the Colloquium featured an interactive session with the Minister, moderated by IPS Chairman, Razeen Sally.
Speaking further, Mr. Iswaran pointed out that the ASEAN should not be looked at as a homogeneous bloc – both politically and economically and highlighted that bilateral trade and investment with Singapore can act as Sri Lanka’s point of entry into the diverse ASEAN market.
Speaking on the investment front, he assured that Sri Lanka is an interesting market for Singaporean investors, especially Sri Lanka’s tourism and hospitality sector which is rich with opportunities for Singaporean investors.
Singapore SMEs in particular find Sri Lanka as a market with high potential. This interest is reflected in aggregate data on Singapore – Sri Lanka trade and investment flows, he went on to say.
Answering a question posed by IPS Research Fellow and Head of the Trade Unit, Janaka Wijayasiri, Mr. Iswaran emphasised that Singapore’s trade agenda is driven by openness, and creating new pathways for agreements and mutual opportunities. He cautioned that protectionism does not help businesses become globally competitive.
He further remarked that the FTA is only the starting point; investment promotion bodies in Sri Lanka should clearly identify areas of mutual interest and sectors of priority such as hospitality, construction, etc. and ensure that government facilitates investment in these areas.
A Memorundam of Understanding between ISAS and IPS was also signed by Dr. Sally and ISAS Chairman Ambassador Gopinath PIllai.