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  • SBF and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore lead business delegation to Sri Lanka with establishment of Sri Lanka – Singapore FTA

SBF and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore lead business delegation to Sri Lanka with establishment of Sri Lanka – Singapore FTA

  • Mission organised in conjunction with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visit to Sri Lanka, where a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between both countries will be inked
  • The 32-strong business and government delegation comprises 24 companies and organisations across the ICT, real estate development / infrastructure, and logistics sectors

22 January 2018 [Singapore] -
The Singapore Business Federation’s (SBF) South Asia Business Group will depart today for its fourth business mission to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka till 26 January 2018.

Jointly organised with International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, the mission is in conjunction with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visit to Sri Lanka. It is led by SBF Chairman Mr S.S. Teo, with SBF’s Honorary Treasurer Mr Lawrence Leow and Mr Chandra Mohan Rethnam, representing the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), as Deputy Mission Leaders.

The 32-strong delegation comprises 24 companies and organisations, of which 60 percent are SMEs. The companies largely hail from the sectors of infocommunications technology; hospitality; real estate development; construction and infrastructure-related services; shipping and logistics; and general trade.

The delegation will visit Sri Lanka’s largest commercial city of Colombo to gain a better understanding of the local business environment; the Government’s economic development plans; and opportunities for Singapore companies with the establishment of an FTA between Singapore and Sri Lanka.

Highlights of the business mission include:

1. Sri Lanka – Singapore Business Forum

  • Jointly organised by SBF, IE Singapore, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Sri Lanka – Singapore Business Council, the Forum will be graced by Hon. Malik Samarawickrama, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Development Strategies & International Trade of Sri Lanka, and Mr S. Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry.
  • It will see Memorandums of Understanding being inked between Singapore and Sri Lankan companies, as well as presentations and panels on opportunities and doing business in Sri Lanka, and the benefits and implementation of the FTA.
  • The Forum will be followed by a networking and business matching session between the Singapore delegates and Sri Lankan companies.

2. Networking Session with High-Level Government Officials

  • Delegation members will have the opportunity to interact with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of Sri Lanka, as well as high-level government officials from both countries.
  • The networking session is intended for them to provide feedback on the business environment and market opportunities.

3. Sector-specific Meetings with Sri Lankan Companies and Government Ministries

  • Meetings with government ministries and agencies such as the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development etc will be organised.
  • Delegates will also call on key representatives of Sri Lankan conglomerates such as John Keells and Aitken Spence, as with leading Sri Lankan companies within the industries aligned to the delegation’s interests.

Sri Lanka is one of the largest economies in the South Asia region and continues to show strong economic growth. It had a GDP of US$81.3 billion in 2016 and a forecast growth rate of 4.7% in 20171, which is expected to grow marginally over 5 percent, driven by private consumption and investment. Its thriving economy is steering the country on course towards an upper middle income country centred around manufacturing and services.

Mr S.S. Teo, Mission Leader, SBF Chairman and Managing Director of Pacific International Lines, said: “SBF identifies Sri Lanka as a promising market for Singapore SMEs to engage and develop. Sri Lanka offers compelling business opportunities across sectors that are accessible and attractive, and at sizes digestible by Singapore companies. Also, its proximity to Singapore, and our shared history, cultural rapport and island nation standing create a natural affinity. Both countries’ citizens do not require a visa for travel, and this facilitates access. SBF welcomes the FTA between Sri Lanka and Singapore and looks forward to promoting Sri Lanka and the FTA’s benefits among the Singapore business community.”

Mr Tan Soon Kim, Assistant Chief Executive Officer (CEO), IE Singapore said, “Singapore enjoys close trading ties with Sri Lanka. Many Singapore companies are already present in Sri Lanka and operate in areas including tourism, consumer, trade and infrastructure. The conclusion of the SLSFTA further cements our strong economic relationship and opens up more opportunities for Singapore and Sri Lankan companies to collaborate across various sectors. As Sri Lanka pushes for reforms and economic growth, there is potential for more Singapore companies, especially SMEs, to capitalise on its growth opportunities. IE Singapore, through its strong partnerships with the Sri Lankan government and companies, will continue to help Singapore companies access opportunities in Sri Lanka.”

Mr Lawrence Leow, Deputy Mission Leader, SBF Honorary Treasurer and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Crescendas Group commented, “Crescendas has had a presence in Colombo since four years back with its investment in Cinnamon Red, a 243-room city hotel. We find the investment environment in Sri Lanka very favourable with the country having a talented labour pool to support foreign business setups. Given our positive experience, we are now embarking on a joint venture with a local partner to develop a high rise grade A office building in Colombo. Aside from real estate and hospitality, we see opportunities in IT / BPO, construction and manufacturing which Singapore businesses can seriously explore.”

Mr Chandra Mohan Rethnam, Deputy Mission Leader representing SICCI, and Head of Commercial Litigation at Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP said, “Sri Lanka has always been a magnet for Singapore companies because of its large economy, close proximity and good connectivity to Singapore and strong cultural ties between the people of both countries. This FTA is a sign of the strong ties between Singapore and Sri Lanka. SICCI welcomes this and strongly encourages its members, especially the SMEs, to reap its benefits and to heed the government’s call to go regional and to develop an external wing to their businesses.”

To date, Singapore companies have established a presence in Sri Lanka across a wide range of sectors, including construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, food processing. Companies such as Woh Hup and Shing Kwan Group are involved in construction and development, while Prima Holdings has substantial food processing operations in wheat and poultry across Sri Lanka.

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