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LAHORE: High Commissioner of Sri Lanka Vice Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama on Wednesday hoped that recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan would help give a quantum jump to the bilateral trade.

He was speaking at a meeting at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). LCCI Vice President Tahir Manzoor Chaudhry presided over the meeting while former Senior Vice President Amjad Ali Jawa and executive committee members were also present on the occasion.

The High Commissioner said that a number of memorandum of understandings (MoUs) have been signed during the Pakistani Prime Minister’s visit to Sri Lanka that would pave way to boost the mutual trade and cement the economic ties.

Both the countries have historical social, political and trade relations but mutual trade does not reflect potential of the two countries.

He said that joint ventures between the private sectors of the two countries would be welcomed. He said that both countries should avail full benefit from the free trade agreement between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. He said that Pakistan should increase import of best quality Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka.

Tahir Manzoor Chaudhry speaking on the occasion said that despite the excellent relations, the bilateral trade volume has yet to surpass US 500 million dollars. In 2018, the volume of bilateral trade peaked by reaching $462 million but it slipped to $389 million in 2019 due to nine percent decline in exports and 38 percent decline in imports.

He said that in 2019, Pakistan’s exports to Sri Lanka were worth $324 million while the imports were to the tune of $65 million. He said that the exports to Sri Lanka consisted of woven fabrics of cotton, cement, potato, pharmaceuticals and maize etc. whereas the imports comprised vegetables, fibre board, natural rubber and copra etc.

“We attach a lot of hopes with recent visit of Prime Minister of Pakistan to Sri Lanka which can turn into a strategic partnership. The PM has also invited his counterpart to join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” LCCI vice president said and added that during the meetings of two Prime Ministers and the respected delegates, there were various important areas including tourism, education, defense, information technology and investment which came under discussion to find ways for enhancing cooperation. It was also agreed to work towards broadening of Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement during high profile meetings.

He hoped that this visit would bring fruitful outcomes in the form of further strengthened diplomatic & bilateral trade relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. There is a considerable demand in Sri Lanka for products like light engineering goods, pharmaceuticals, surgical instruments, auto parts, industrial raw materials and plastic goods etc. Pakistan has the capacity of enhancing the exports of these items to Sri Lanka, he said.

The business communities of two countries should keep on exploring the opportunities of mutual interest, he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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