Much awaited Sri Lanka, China FTA to be signed this year

Much awaited Sri Lanka, China FTA to be signed this year

Colombo, May 17 (NIA) – Sri Lanka and China will sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) this year as China pledged to increase its investments in the island country.

In discussions held between Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Beijing late on Tuesday evening, the Chinese leader also pledged support and cooperation to Sri Lanka to become the hub of the Indian ocean using its strategic location and leverage on the connectivity mainly based on the shipping, aviation, and logistics hub.

Li stressed that to achieve this objective the investment climate in Sri Lanka should be created.

In the event there is sustainable stability, strong legal framework investors from around the world will come to Sri Lanka, Li added.

He said that he will encourage Chinese companies to invest as well as do business in Sri Lanka.

Wickremesinghe thanked his counterpart for the support China is extending to Sri Lanka based on the old friendship. He also briefed the Chinese Premier about the economic development and the benefits Sri Lanka can get through the Hambantota economic zone and the Colombo Financial Centre, more popularly known as the Colombo Port City which is funded by China.

Meanwhile, during a meeting between Wickremesinghe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, Wickremesinghe said  he welcomed increased Chinese investment in Sri Lanka’s major infrastructure projects, Reuters quoted China’s state Xinhua news agency.

China signed a deal with Sri Lanka late last year to further develop the strategic port of Hambantota and build a huge industrial zone nearby, a key part of Xi’s signature economic and foreign policy to create a modern-day ‘Silk Road’ across Asia, Europe and Africa.

But amid concern over increasing Chinese investment, hundreds of Sri Lankans clashed with police at the industrial zone’s opening in January, the Reuters reported.

Meeting Xi in Beijing after attending China’s Belt and Road Forum on Sunday and Monday, Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka was willing to work with China to ‘successfully push forward’ the Hambantota and Colombo Port City projects, according to official Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Xi said the construction of a China-Sri Lanka free trade zone would prove a key starting point in promoting fair and sustainable development in bilateral trade, accelerate ease of investment and realise the unimpeded flow of trade and capital. Major projects with Sri Lanka should act as precursors for driving infrastructure connectivity and maritime and aviation cooperation, Xi added, according to Xinhua’s report.