Sri Lanka moves closer to coveted China breakthrough

July 16, 2017 at 5:51 pm

  • Six exhaustive rounds of talks on China FTA wrapped so far

  • Sixth was in Beijing, now preparing for the seventh: Rishad

  • SL-China total trade tops $4.4 b, YoY up by 11%: DoC

  • Two-way trade soars by 363% in last decade with China: DoC


Below-lead-1Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, Deputy Counsel of the Department of Commerce of Guangxi Xiong Jiajun and Political Counselor of the Embassy of China in Sri Lanka Pang Xunshie inaugurate the 2017 China Guangxi Products Exhibition in Colombo last week – Pic by Upul Abayasekara


No less than six exhaustive sessions of official talks have been wrapped up todate in Sri Lanka’s pursuit of the coveted Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the world’s second largest economy.

“Our talks with China are progressing smoothly,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on Friday in Colombo, addressing the launch event of the first-ever product exhibition in Sri Lanka by China’s Guangxi Zuang Autonomous Region at Colombo’s SLECC.

The event was joined by Deputy DG of Department of Commerce of Guangxi, XiongJiajun and a 40-man strong trade and exhibition delegation of which 35 were event exhibitors from Guangxi. Also attending the event was Charge d’affairs of Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka Pang Xunshie.

“In recent years, China-Sri Lanka two-way trade has grown faster than our trade with many other countries. Last year China became the largest import origin for us. 42% of our total imports from the world in 2016 came from China at a value of $ 4.2 billion. The result was that china is now the largest global supplier to Sri Lanka,” said Bathiudeen.



According to the Sri Lanka Department of Commerce (DoC), Sri Lanka’s top exports to China last year were Ceylon Tea, coconut, footwear parts, apparel, and rubber tyres. Sri Lanka’s largest export to China five years ago was ‘various types of fibres’ immediately followed by Ceylon Tea, but by last year, Ceylon Tea has crowned the exports list to be followed by ‘fibres’.

Though Lankan exports declined somewhat in 2016 to $199 m from 2015 high of $293 m, in general, exports to China have been on an upward trend-surging more than fivefold (568%) since 2007’s mere $35 m. Top imports from China last year were mobile phones, boats and vessels, handmade fabrics, and petroleum.  Mobile phones remained as the largest import item from China to Sri Lanka during the last five-year period.

Bathiudeen added: “Recently the IMF and World Bank ranked China as the world’s largest economy based on Purchasing Power Parity. These factors show us that an FTA with such an economy would be beneficial for Sri Lanka. In fact I am pleased to say that our FTA talks with China are progressing smoothly. The sixth round of talks were successfully concluded this March in Beijing. We are working for the seventh FTA round next.”

The exhaustive negotiations by Lankan side, steadily shouldered by the DoC, always move ahead after continued domestic stakeholder consultations and feedbacks are received.

According to the DoC, in 2016 Sri Lanka’s total bilateral trade with China was $ 4.4 billion, a huge 363% increase in comparison to a decade back in 2007 (at $965 m), and even an 11% annual YoY increase in 2016, from 2015’s $ 4 b.