SRI Lanka, an island nation with 20 million people, is gunning to be Asia’s next investment destination.
Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs Gamini Lakshman Peiris said that with the historic end of the long-running civil war and terrorism, the country now has the opportunity to set ambitious goals for economic development.
Peiris visited the country last week to woo Filipino investors to consider Sri Lanka for their business expansion.
“Today is economic renaissance for us. People are looking to the future with a sense of euphoria,” Peiris said during a business forum organized by the Embassy of Sri Lanka and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) in Taguig City.
He cited some reasons why Filipino investors should consider doing business in Sri Lanka, which ranked 63rd trading partner of the Philippines in 2012.
He said Sri Lanka is attractive for investments because of its geographical location, being strategically connected to major shipping and air routes to the East and West.
It also has a highly competitive and educated workforce.
“The government also put up the Board of investments, it is a one stop shop wherein everything what is required by investors can be obtained under one roof,” Peiris added.
One advantage of doing business in Sri Lanka, he said, is the preferential access to India and Pakistan markets.
Sri Lanka also allows total foreign ownership and imposes no restrictions on repatriation of earnings.
Peiris said Sri Lanka has Investment Protection Agreement and Double Taxation Relief Agreement with over 30 countries.
“We are also signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank,” he added.
Sri Lanka is also known for commercial arbitration wherein disputes could be settled without ending in court litigation.
Charitha Yattogoda, Minister Counselor of the Sri Lankan embassy, said that among their country’s thrust sectors are export-oriented manufacturing, export-oriented services, import substitution, tourism and tourism-related projects.
According to the embassy, the trade relations between Sri Lanka and the Philippines continues to be moving upward but at a slower pace.
PCCI President Miguel Varela said the chamber acknowledges Sri Lanka’s potential as trade, investment, and tourism partner.
In 2008, the PCCI signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) aimed at improving tools for furthering economic partnership between our two countries.
With this memorandum of understanding, the Philippines-Sri Lanka and Sri-Lanka Philippines Business Councils were born.
“Through the years, our hardworking business councils paved way to the improvement of our growing business network, facilitation of business matching activities, information dissemination, among others,” he said.
Varela said the Philippines sees Sri Lanka as an essential market in the South Asia region adding that opportunities for both countries in the fronts of tourism, garments, electronics and semiconductors, and infrastructure are worth exploring.
“In this regard we see an expanded and strengthened bilateral cooperation between our countries by tapping these important sectors,” he said.
Jose Romero, chairman of the Philippines-Sri Lanka Business Council, said that while the two-way trade between the two countries increased since 2008, there is a need to aggressively promote the country’s products to Sri Lanka.
“While Sri Lanka, by comparison to others, may be a small market for now, but it may present a strategic importance for some Philippine companies already dealing with the region,” he added.