The project will be implemented over a period of four years by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Department of Commerce.
Speaking at the launch of the project, Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue said: “Trade is a key factor in stimulating economic development of countries. This project has been jointly designed with the Government of Sri Lanka, and brings together policymakers, government agencies, business leaders, chambers of commerce and apex organisations with the aim of improving competitiveness gaps and expanding international trade.”
The Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica and Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake signed the Financing Agreement for the project on 16 March 2016.
Rishad Bathiudeen MP, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka states: “I am pleased to witness the initial EU funding breakthrough that I originally announced in January 2015 after meeting the delegation from ITC led by Geneva Asia and the Pacific Chief Office Mr Xuejun Jiang in Colombo, now becoming a reality. Our consensual government wants to expand global trade by entering into many new and powerful Free Trade Agreements while positioning SMEs, exports and value chains to become growth drivers in their economic development roadmap and in such a context of major transition, this EUR 8 million project is a timely intervention that catalyses Sri Lanka’s accelerated journey towards the upper ranges in global middle income ranks.”
The project will help Sri Lanka integrate WTO policies and regulatory reforms to make the most of the potential opportunities from the EU GSP Plus scheme and greater regional integration. It will also address compliance standards and efficiencies in cross border procedures, which are key constraints to market access, especially for small and medium businesses. Specific attention will be given to enhancing value chains in the spice, food and IT Business Process Outsourcing sectors.
Ashish Shah, Director of Country Programmes at ITC, said “More than 80% of businesses in Sri Lanka are SMEs, representing 35% of total employment. Strengthening the export capacities of SMEs in sectors with high potential for job creation is therefore a critical contribution to ensuring inclusive growth in Sri Lanka. Through this we will unlock Sri Lankan SMEs’ trade competitiveness and help them reap the benefits of participation in international trade”.
UNIDO will support Sri Lanka’s efforts to integrate into the regional and multilateral trading system through a quality programme aimed at the food and spices sectors’ productive chains. This is expected to strengthen the National Quality Infrastructure, enhance the technical capacity and improve compliance with quality and sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.
A steering committee, co-chaired by the Ministry of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs and the Delegation of the European Union, will provide overall direction to the project. Competent national level agencies and apex business entities will support work-plan development and implementation of activities. (Colombo Gazette)