Sri Lanka wants to forge stronger trade and economic relations with Qatar, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said during the ‘Qatari-Sri Lankan Business Forum’ held in Doha on Wednesday.
The forum, organised by Qatar Chamber and the Sri Lanka embassy in Doha, hosted Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who is on a state visit to Qatar, and HE the Minister of Economy and Commerce Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani, as well as other dignitaries.
“This business forum was raised at a crucial juncture to deepen and broaden our existing economic linkages. It was also able to form partnerships and seize the opportunities in each other’s markets,” said Bathiudeen during the forum.
“The Qatari market is an important destination for Sri Lanka. There is great potential available to be tapped by our business sector. It is, therefore, our hope that this forum will be a platform for both countries to reach the expected targets in our trade and investment relations,” he continued.
Similarly, Sri Lanka’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Vasantha Senanayake encouraged the Qatari business community to explore investment opportunities in Sri Lanka.
He said Sri Lanka, which has free trade agreements with India and Pakistan, and is about to conclude FTAs with China and Singapore, has a market of 1.7bn people, making the South Asian nation “an ideal location for Qatari investors.”
Senanayake said Sri Lanka’s workforce in Qatar “has proved its competence and high skills in contributing to the economic growth of the country, which opens the door to attracting more skilled Sri Lankan manpower to the Qatari market.”
Bathiudeen noted that 7,200 Sri Lankan products are being exported to European markets, and that any investor in Sri Lanka can benefit from its FTAs and trade connections with Europe.
The Sri Lankan trade minister also said while there were only 1,700 Qataris who visited Sri Lanka in 2016, there are still potential opportunities in the tourism sector considering that there are 28 flights a week linking the two countries.
In a speech, Sheikh Ahmed said the forum serves as a bridge that links Qatar and Sri Lanka’s private sectors and a platform that would promote the investments of Sri Lankan companies in Qatar.
“On the other hand, we are confident that this gathering will encourage Qatari companies to enter the Sri Lankan market and to invest in fields that are strategic and important to Qatar like the financial sector and the trade sector,” Sheikh Ahmed pointed out.
In his speech, Qatar Chamber chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani emphasised Qatar’s thrust to provide a safe working environment for the expatriate community in accordance with state laws and legislations, as well as with international conventions.
He said trade volume between Qatar and Sri Lanka stood only at $52.5mn in 2016 and hoped that the forum “would represent a real start towards activating joint cooperation between the business sectors of both countries.”