Regional hub concept:
'Enormous opportunities for British companies'
Senior Deputy President,
National Chamber Thilak Godamanna presents a memento to British
High Commissioner John Rankin. Deputy President Sujeeve
Samaraweera looks on.
A strong commercial relationship is a win-win situation for UK and
Sri Lanka in building growth, employment opportunities and prosperity,
British High Commissioner John Rankin told a seminar on 'Bilateral Trade
Between Sri Lanka and UK' organised by National Chamber of Commerce
Excerpts from his speech.
"Promoting commercial relations and helping to increase bilateral
trade between the UK and Sri Lankan is one of my objectives.
The rapidly growing markets of Asia, which include Sri Lanka, present
strong opportunities for British businesses.
British businesses, with their experience, expertise and strong track
record in innovation, can in turn match the needs of the market here. A
strong commercial relationship is a win-win situation for both countries
in building growth, employment opportunities and prosperity.
UKTI (UK Trade and Investment) works in the UK and overseas with
UK-based businesses to ensure its success in international markets. The
UK is your third largest trading partner by value and second largest in
volume, after India.
In 2013, UK exports to Sri Lanka amounted to £167 million, a 14%
increase compared to the previous year, while UK imports from Sri Lanka
amounted to £849 million, a healthy trade balance in favour of Sri
In addition to UK companies, there are other areas of UK-Sri Lankan
business which are perhaps less widely recognised, but which are also
important. This country hosts the largest number of Chartered Institute
of Management Accountant members of any country outside the UK.
The Sri Lankan business climate is viewed favourably and there is a
well-founded perception that it is easier to do business here than in
other countries of the region. The latest figures show that the UK
remains among the top 10 investors in Sri Lanka.
We are now the fastest growing major advanced economy in the world,
and the IMF has noted that our economy 'has rebounded strongly'. Our
current account deficit has narrowed and the unemployment rate continues
UK manufacturing, services and construction surveys all point towards
good growth, supporting the Pound Sterling to a six-year high.
There is no Western country that is more open to inward investment.
That's why we have got China investing in civil nuclear power in the UK.
And why London is now the Western hub of offshore Renminbi Trading. And
why in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index, the UK is by far
the highest ranking major EU economy.
In the last Budget our Chancellor doubled the amount of lending
available to British exporters and cut the interest rates on loans by a
Today, we have the most competitive export finance package in Europe.
A number of UK companies had successfully won business in Sri Lanka
with export finance backing. The most recent has been Cleveland Bridge,
being awarded a contract to supply 537 rural bridges.
We are aware that those who know most about the challenges, realities
and opportunities of business are business people themselves. I pay
tribute to the help and support that we at the High Commission enjoy
from our British Chamber of Commerce - the Council for Business with
They help us continue to deliver success for UK businesses looking
for opportunities in Sri Lanka. With over 140 companies as members and
membership growing, they are in my opinion, the best chamber in Sri
Lanka devoted to trade promotion and commercial growth between the two
With the support of the British Council and generous funding
particularly from HSBC, they deliver a English Language Teaching Program
as their main Corporate Social Responsibility project, which reaches
every region of Sri Lanka through which thousands of schoolchildren have
benefitted over the past nine years.
Repeating the 2013 UK business successes in Sri Lanka will be
difficult. But to try and maintain the commercial success UK companies
enjoyed last year we have arranged a Trade Mission to Sri Lanka this
About 20 UK companies have registered to participate across all '5+1
Regional Hub' sectors identified by your Government as being crucial for
the economic development of Sri Lanka - aviation, maritime, knowledge,
commercial, energy and tourism.
In any country, there is a need to cut barriers to business, which in
turn can help to attract further Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and
growth. Sri Lanka is an easier place to do business than most of its
This ambitious regional hub concept presents enormous opportunities
for UK businesses in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka's high literacy rates and skilled population places the
economy on the right footing to avoid falling into the middle-income
trap. This can be combined with investment into higher levels of human
capital, advanced infrastructure, innovation, R and D and building
institutions that promote dynamism, helping unleash the private sector
potential that will in turn drive further growth.
Innovation is a key for economic growth, creating jobs and solving
the energy crisis. Appropriate investment into innovation and R and D
can be the cornerstone of any economic policy in driving economic
Sri Lanka has made considerable headway in this. The country has a
strong ICT background. The work of Millennium IT, and its use of
innovation, has made it a well sought after global company.
I have visited a number of garment factories and have been impressed
with the cutting edge technology being used to produce high quality
clothing in good working conditions.
When Michael Phelps won his gold medals at the Athens Olympics in
2004, he was wearing the fast skin swim suit designed by Speedo and
manufactured by MAS Holdings.
The first carbon neutral brassiere was manufactured in Sri Lanka. I
know that the use of nano technology for manufacturing garments is being
These are all good examples of how Sri Lanka is already on the right
path of integrating innovation into the economy.
Sri Lanka offers unique opportunities for UK companies. Strong
economic growth, a highly educated labour force and access to markets in
the region makes Sri Lanka an attractive market for investors."