The Sunday Leader

First Belarus Trade Team To Arrive In July

Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry & Commerce receives the JEC
proposal from the ambassador of Belarus, Vitaly Prima.

The first ever business delegation from Belarus is scheduled to arrive in Colombo in July opening the gateway to the Eurasian market of Russia-Kazakstan-Belarus region.

Sri Lanka’s trade with the virgin Eurasian market Belarus is around $ 14 million and according to Vitaly Prima, ambassador of Belarus, the country plans to prepare fruitful projects with Sri Lanka.

The envoy made these observations while meeting Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and his team at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce on Thursday, May 22.

“With your assistance, we want to prepare fruitful projects with Sri Lanka. We propose a Joint Economic Commission (JEC) with Sri Lanka as early as July 2014 to be held in Colombo. We also can formulate the first Belarus Business delegation to Colombo during this event as per your interest,” said the Belarus envoy Vitaly Prima based in New Delhi, India.

Taking part in the discussion along with Minister Bathiudeen were R. D. S. Kumararatne (Director-General of Commerce), Sujatha Weerakoone (DG-EDB), officials of Department of Commerce and Export Development Board as well as representatives of Belarus consul in Sri Lanka.

Belarus is the world’s third largest potash power and an industry driven economy with a GDP equal to Sri Lanka. For Sri Lanka, Belarus remains a virgin market.

The first high level Belarus team to arrive in Sri Lanka met Minister Bathiudeen and his officials in Colombo in August 2013. According to the Department of Commerce, bilateral trade between the countries stood at $ 14.2 million in 2013 and bilateral trade volumes between Sri Lanka and Belarus more than doubled from $ 7 million levels in 2010.

Ninety per cent of Sri Lanka’s exports hava been tea. Other export items are pneumatic tyres, articles for packing of goods and food preparations. Fertilizers (Potassium Chloride) has been the major import item from Belarus contributing to more than 95% of total imports in from Belarus in 2013.

Belarus is the world’s third largest potash supplier after Canada and Brazil and one of the key dairy economies in the world well-known for its cheese. The Russia-Kazakstan-Belarus Customs Union is reportedly keen for its expansion, with new regional members.

“With your assistance, we want to prepare fruitful projects with Sri Lanka,” said the Belarus envoy, who added that the believed that the proposed Joint Economic Commission could be wide ranging, involving such aspects as trade, investment, education, agriculture and even science and technology.

“Closer ties with our country could open a 170-million-dollar strong Eurasian market of Russia-Kazakstan-Belarus Customs Union for Sri Lanka. We are also looking for more apparel and leather imports from Sri Lanka since our apparel production levels are low.

We understand you have a growing leather export industry here and we are also looking for upper shoe patterns/parts in big volumes for our shoe manufacturers from you.

We continue to buy Sri Lankan made solid rubber tyres. We also like your fish and are keen on bigger imports of Sri Lankan seafood,” he envoy noted.

Minister Bathiudeen, making his observations said that Lanka-Belarus cooperation has been strengthened in recent times. “In this background, we welcome your proposals for Joint Economic Cooperation and I also suggest B2B visits to kick-off business and investment cooperation with Sri Lanka.”

Depending on the concurrence of other line Ministries, July is a good time to start. Our current bilateral trade levels at $ 14 million shows of the huge trade potential that could be realized with the latest trade efforts.

“We also invite Belarus investors to partner with us in our government’s proposed 60 investment projects as well as in our apparel, leather and seafood sectors. I propose the Department of Commerce under my Ministry to be the focal point in renewal of our bilateral trade efforts.

We understand that Belarus is a dairy leader in the world.

Therefore we welcome your support to our dairy sector. Stronger powdered milk manufacturing capacity for Sri Lanka is the need of the hour and can help us to cut down on our huge annual milk powder import bill of $ 1.7 billion! I also invite a Belarus Business delegation to Colombo,” said Minister Bahiudeen. Responding to Minister Bathiudeen’s comments, the Belarus envoy said that being one of world’s leading dairy nations, Belaarus can support developing Sri Lanka’s dairy sector – and not only on a single aspect such as powdered milk production but also in its entire value chain! “We shall favourably consider your request in this regard! As per your interest we would also formulate the first Belarus Business delegation to Colombo during July,” he added.

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