Mission looks to lift bilateral trade contact with Sri Lanka

AN Australian trade mission visited Sri Lanka recently to take advantage of the improved investment climate in the country in an effort to boost two-way trade and investment.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia (CCI) organised and led the delegation, which included representatives of Leighton Contractors, Woodside Energy, Solahart Industries, Royston Diesel Sales, Hindle-Buralli and the WA Department of Industry and Technology.

“Sri Lanka’s political and economic outlook is brighter than it has been for many years and the time is now right for Australian companies to take a fresh look at the opportunities this important trading partner offers,” delegation leader, Ian Whitaker, manager of CCI’s International Trade Centre, said.

Sri Lanka is ranked as the most liberalised economy in South Asia. The dollar value of two-way merchandise trade between Australia and Sri Lanka has more than doubled since 1995 to total $A429 million in 2001. The trade balance is strongly weighted in Australia’s favour, with total Australian merchandise exports to Sri Lanka valued at $345 million in 2001, while Australian merchandise imports from Sri Lanka were valued at $84 million.

Total bilateral trade with WA amounted to just under $88 million in 2001-02 with the balance of trade tipped in WA’s favour to the tune of $71 million. Confidential items, including alumina exports, represented 71 per cent of exports to the country, while optical instruments and apparatus exports comprised 17 per cent.

Australia’s principal exports to Sri Lanka are milk and dairy products, non-monetary gold, machine tools, cotton, fresh vegetables and paper products. Tea, garments and rubber tyres make up most of Australia’s imports from Sri Lanka.

Australia is the second largest foreign investor in Sri Lanka and the total stock level of Australian investment in Sri Lanka as at June 2000 was $A175 million.

Ansell’s rubber products plant represents the largest foreign investment in an industrial plant in Sri Lanka and the largest single industrial enterprise in the country.

“Our meetings in Colombo this week with both government ministers and business representatives have led us to conclude that Australian trade and investment interests stand to gain from the current impetus for reform in Sri Lanka,” Mr Whitaker said.

“Opportunities include the diversification of the power industry, port development, telecommunications and potential consultancies related to the privatisation or restructuring of state-owned enterprises. Depending on progress in the island’s peace process, tourism, including that related to transport and other activities, could also open opportunities to Australian business.”

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