Colombo, (Asian independent) Sri Lanka stands to gain from greater Chinese trade and investment, a Sri Lankan diplomat has said.
Sri Lankan exporters should particularly take advantage of the annual China International Import Expo set to open next month to boost exports, Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador-designate to China, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“I would like to see a number of tea companies, rubber products companies, spice companies, coconut products companies, gem and jewellery producers, and other service providers, including Sri Lanka tourism and Sri Lankan airlines, make use of this opportunity to access the Chinese market,” said Kohona, also former permanent representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations.
Citing the Sri Lankan tea as an example, Kohona said it has become a favourable trend among young Chinese consumers.
“In 2010, we exported roughly about a million kilograms of tea to China. Last year, we exported over 11 million kilograms,” he said, adding China is one of the fastest-growing markets for the tea.
Noting that China is the biggest source of tourism in the world and Sri Lanka’s second-largest source of tourism, Kohona voiced hope that Sri Lanka will attract more Chinese visitors in the near future.
“It’s not only the wonderful beaches, historical sites, tea plantations, greenery and pure blue skies that need to be projected to the Chinese market. This is the only country in the world where you can watch whales frolicking in the ocean in the morning, and go and see elephants in the afternoon,” he said.
The Sri Lankan government, Kohona said, will formulate a reliable legal framework for special economic zones in Colombo Port City and Hambantota Port, flagship cooperation projects between Sri Lanka and China within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, which would be attractive to investors from all over the world.
“What we need are investments and more investments. We need to create wealth. We need to create jobs. We need to create prosperity for our people,” he said.
Refuting some western countries’ accusation against China of setting up “debt traps” in developing countries as “sheer propaganda,” Kohona pointed out that 90 per cent of Sri Lanka’s debt is in fact owed to western and multilateral financial institutions.
Sri Lanka is open to investments from any country, but only China was there to help when the country needed it the most, he noted, stressing that Sri Lanka should be seen as a friendly country for Chinese companies.