Speaking at the Invest Sri Lanka Forum in Singapore today, the Minister for Trade and Industry in Singapore, S Iswaran said that Sri Lanka and Singapore have had a busy two years and many bilateral engagements which culminated in the signing of the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement when Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited Colombo on 23rd January 2018.
“The Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement is significant for both countries. As Sri Lanka’s first comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement, it is a clear demonstration of the Sri Lankan Government’s commitment to re-integrate into the global economy and bring more economic opportunities for its businesses and the people of Sri Lanka. For Singapore, this agreement marks another step-forward in our commitment to free and open markets, and to deepening our bilateral ties with Sri Lanka, and through Sri Lanka into the South Asian region,” he said.
He said the signing and (soon to follow) ratification of the Sri Lanka-Free Trade Agreement will further catalyse Singapore companies’ investments and economic engagement in Sri Lanka.
“The successful conclusion of the SLSFTA is due in no small measure to the strong support of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, his cabinet colleagues, and government officials. We are already starting to see the benefits of the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement – the positive news surrounding the agreement has led to an uptick in interest from Singapore companies to partner Sri Lankan companies to invest in opportunities both within Sri Lanka, and to use Sri Lanka as a hub to expand into the broader South Asian region. Indeed, the strong turnout to this conference is testimony to the growing interest in opportunities in Sri Lanka,” the Singaporean Minister said.
He said that when he was in Colombo in January, he had the opportunity to inaugurate two projects – one was Next Hotel Colombo, a partnership between Sri Lanka’s Abans Group and Singapore’s Next Story Group; and the other was Star Anise Boutique Capsule Hotel, set up by a young Singapore entrepreneur and his Sri Lankan business partner.
He said that another Singapore company, Commonwealth Capital, has also chosen Colombo as their “gateway to South Asia” for its anchor brand, PastaMania, and hopes to use Colombo as a city to test-bed their concepts and brands before expanding into the region.
“These new investments are taking place in a diversity of sectors and they represent new opportunities, for the business community in Sri Lanka to work with their Singaporean counterparts, and also new job opportunities for Sri Lankans as Singapore companies seek a sustainable pool of talent to grow in-market and beyond,” he said.
Iswaran said that Sri Lanka companies can also tap on the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement to begin their internationalisation journey in Singapore. (Colombo Gazette)