Sri Lanka is to sign a free trade agreement with China this year to boost economic ties.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will attend a high-level forum on the Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing in May, said Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku, Sri Lankan ambassador to China, during the Sri Lankan National Day Celebration on Saturday, reported Reuters.
“2017 is the 69th anniversary of Sri Lanka and the 60th year of the establishment of diplomatic relations with China,” said Dr. Kodituwakku, adding that “the best way to remember the friendship of both countries is to sign a free trade agreement.”
2017 is also the 65th anniversary of the Rubber-Rice Pact between China and Sri Lanka.
China and Sri Lanka are major business partners, yet exports to China takes up less than 5% of Sri Lanka’s total exports, much less than the 40% to Europe and the 25% to America, said Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Shanghai Lakshitha Pradeep Ratnayake.
Chinese tourists are the second largest group to the South Asian country, following those from India. In the past three years, the Chinese total has risen by 300%. Chinese tourism numbers in Sri Lanka may surpass those of India in just two years, predicted the Consulate General.
Chinese investment in Sri Lanka only ranks sixth overall. Ratnayake hopes to attract more Chinese tourists and investors by promoting non-governmental exchanges between the two countries.