The Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade hosted the 9th European Union – Sri Lanka Investor Dialogue, an instrument set up in 2017 to resolve issues faced by investors from the European Union operating in Sri Lanka under the Board of Investment. The high-level meeting, which promotes bilateral cooperation between the Member States of the European Union and Sri Lanka, was co-chaired by Malik Samarawickrama, the Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, and European Union Ambassador, H.E. Tung-Lai Margue.
“The Investor Dialogue has become a useful way to address issues concerning European investments and achieve results” said Ambassador Margue. He thanked the Sri Lankan authorities for their efforts in improving the country’s business climate and highlighted that this forum is the way to prove to foreign investors that they are welcome in the country. He added that despite the numerous achievements, both sides can work together to do more and to do better.
Malik Samarawickrama thanked the EU for the excellent cooperation, openness to discussion, and the effective follow-up it has shown. He stated that currently eight task forces are working on improving Sri Lanka’s position on the Doing Business Index and pointed out that significant progress has been made. He also highlighted that the EU is one of Sri Lanka’s largest trading partners and its main export destination, adding that fisheries exports have more than doubled since the GSP+ has been reactivated. He concluded by stating that Sri Lanka must have mechanisms to resolve investor issues, such as the EU-Sri Lanka Investor Dialogue.
The Minister was assisted by Mr. S.T. Kodikara, Secretary, Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, Mr. W.A.D.S. Gunasinghe, Additional Secretary to the Ministry, Mr. Mangala Yapa, Chairman of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, Mrs. Champika Malalgoda, Director General of the BOI and Mrs. Indira Malwatte, Chairperson of the Export Development Board.
Moreover, many representatives from key State Institutions, namely the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, the Sri Lanka Customs Department, the Excise Department, the National Plant Quarantine, the Department of Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Health, the Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, the Ministry of Ports and Shipping, and the National Water Supply and Drainage Board, attended the meeting and took part in open and friendly discussions.
The Heads of Mission of several European Union States too participated in the talks, raising concerns about issues encountered by some of their national companies and other European businesses, but also encouraging further cooperation.
The need to improve transparency was stressed by German Ambassador, H.E. Joern Rohde, who said: “we want to make Sri Lanka a better place for trade and investment. We are here to improve this and solve issues and we believe that Tender Procedures play an important part in the decision to invest”.
For his part, French Ambassador, H.E Eric Lavertu, linked this initiative to the economic development in the country. He stated: “we are trying our best help your efforts. It is extremely important to have this dialogue, because it represents a tool to push the development of the country”.
The Dutch Ambassador, H.E. Tania Gonggrijp, pointed out the long history between her country and Sri Lanka, adding that “We now focus on trade and investment. Everyone who mentioned this dialogue was very positive about this”.
Overall, the discussions were held in a spirit of friendship, reflecting the strong ties existing between the two parties, and concrete proposals to improve business relations were discussed, with the European Union and Sri Lanka agreeing to strengthen cooperation on sectoral policy issues.
The next Investor Dialogue is scheduled to take place at the beginning of 2020.