The 29th Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka – Pakistan Business Council of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, was held on April 6, 2021. At the Annual General Meeting, Somasundaram Deivanayagam, Managing Director of Eswaran Brothers Exports was unanimously elected as the President of the Council.
The High Commissioner for Pakistan in Sri Lanka, Maj. Gen. (Retd) Muhammad Saad Khattak, Patron of the Council graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. Addressing the gathering, he stated that, “I strongly believe that the active working and participation of forums such as the Sri Lanka – Pakistan Business Council of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce are integral to building long-term and sustainable business-to-business linkages between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Pakistan – Sri Lanka relationship is based on mutual respect and goodwill based on our shared history, deep cultural values and the commitment that benefits of development are spread evenly and reach all our peoples, particularly the most disadvantaged. We are bound together by diverse yet similar legacies, linked by trade connection crisscrossing over time. We have helped each other in times of adversity; we have signed a mutual free trade agreement before anyone else. To this end, Sri Lanka has the exceptional status of being the first country with which Pakistan entered into a Free Trade Agreement for trade of goods, which came into effect in 2005. This clearly highlights the trust and expectations that we have in the economic potential of Sri Lanka’’.
Further elaborating on the trade ties His Excellency indicated that, ‘’Though the current trend of growth in bilateral trade is positive, however, the present volume of trade approx.US $ 450 million does not reflect the true potential between our two friendly countries. Currently, Sri Lanka is our 14th largest export destination, while Pakistan is Sri Lanka’s 23rd’’.
‘’In South Asia, Sri Lanka ranks as the 3rd largest trading partner. Major exports to Sri Lanka include, Portland Cement, Vegetables including Onions & Potatoes, Rice, pharmaceuticals, cereals, Cotton yarn, woven fabric, etc. I’m pleased to note that exports to Sri Lanka have been stable and growing throughout the years since the signing of the FTA and in 2019 exports from Pakistan stood at US$ 369 Million. However, we are cognizant of the fact that exports from Sri Lanka, which stood at US$ 81 million in 2019 and the overall volume of bilateral trade between our two friendly countries can be significantly improved,’’ he also said.
The High Commission of Pakistan through its Trade & Investment Wing is committed to not only enhance the volume of our traditional exports to Sri Lanka such as textile products, pharmaceuticals, construction materials including cement and iron and steel products, fruits and vegetables, but also make way for joint ventures between Sri Lankan and Pakistani businesses in various mutually beneficial high potential sectors such as Textile manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, agro processing, Information & Communication Technology (ICT) and tourism development and also to deepen our cooperation through enhanced regional connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRO) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Pakistan is one of the world’s fastest growing economies in a largely volatile global economic scenario. The government is implementing key reforms to drive sustainable economic growth with a renewed focus upon facilitating trade and investment through an export-led growth strategy for which necessary infrastructure is being laid down and investment being attracted to meet that objective. Pakistan jumped 28 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index and graduated to among the world’s top-10 reformed countries with the most improved business climate.
The High Commissioner reiterated that strengthening of bilateral trade and investment between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is a top priority in the agenda of the Pakistan High Commission in Sri Lanka.
The outgoing President, Azmy Mohammed appreciated the support extended to local companies by the High Commission of Pakistan and requested His Excellency’s support to further develop trade and investment between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Somasundaram Deivanayagam, Managing Director of Eswaran Brothers Exports Pvt Ltd., was elected as the President of the Council. Kaushal Rajapaksa, Proprietor, Kalhari Enterprises and Shaameel Mohideen, Chief Executive Officer, Spillburg Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. were elected as the Vice Presidents. The Committee members representing Akbar Brothers (Pvt) Ltd. – Yogaratnam Yogeswaran, DMW Ventures Pvt. Ltd. – Wasantha de Silva, Hatton National Bank PLC – Randeva Mahaarachchi, M. A. Razak & Co. Ltd. – Ehab Razak, and MAC Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. – Kamal Boyagoda were appointed at the AGM.
Addressing the gathering Mr. Deivanayagam, newly elected President, stated that Pakistan is the largest tea drinking nation importing approximately 250 to 300 million Kgs of tea annually. However, it was noted that very low quantity of tea is being exported from Sri Lanka to Pakistan and requested His Excellency to intervene and see the possibility of improving the current situation by importing increased quantities of tea from Sri Lanka to Pakistan. Considering the yeoman service rendered by two of the Past Presidents, the Sri Lanka – Pakistan Business Council conferred Mr. Sega Nagendra and Mr. Rohitha Thilakaratne as Honorary Members of the Council at the AGM.
The Bilateral Business Councils, an integral part of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, plays a vital role in the promotion of international business. The main activity of the Councils is expansion of business between Sri Lanka and the partner country. The Ceylon Chamber operates 19 Bilateral Business Councils with the prime objectives of promoting of trade and investment, joint ventures, services including promotion of tourism between Sri Lanka and the respective countries. The Sri Lanka – Pakistan Business Council was inaugurated in 1991 to promote trade, tourism investment and services between Sri Lanka and Pakistan and vice versa.
The Sri Lanka – Pakistan Business Council of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce continues to act as the vital link between Sri Lanka and the partner countries, to develop new initiatives and areas of corporation in terms of trade, tourism and investment. The Business Council membership comprise a wide spectrum of companies engaged in infrastructure, logistics and services, financial services, tourism and leisure, import and export trading, manufacturing, ICT and telecommunication.