India’s trade minister on Saturday said a special economic zone is planned for Sri Lanka’s eastern port city of Trincomalee as part of an effort to double bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2015.
India expressed its keenness to invest in development of war-torn Sri Lanka in a big way for which it promised to rope in private players in sectors like ports and exploration of oil and gas. Anand Sharma also said other investments in Sri Lanka were planned to help reach the goal.
India accounted for just 4.9 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total exports in 2011, led by machinery and equipment, animal fodder, spices and garments. Trade between the two countries was worth $4.8 billion in 2011.
“We see the present engagement is well below the potential. Therefore we have set a target of doubling (the trade) to $10 billion by 2015,” Sharma told reporters in Colombo after launching an Indian trade show.
Around 120 Indian companies including Indian Oil Corporation, Ashok Leyland, and Bharti Airtel operate in Sri Lanka. The United States and Europe account for 60 per cent of Sri Lankan exports. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund urged Sri Lanka to focus more on sales to India and China to boost exports and support economic growth. India and Sri Lanka have set a target to double bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2015, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said.
“We have set a target to double bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2015. Captains of industry have accepted and endorsed it,” Sharma said while addressing the inaugural function of “India Show” here.
Sharma along with Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Development Rishad Bathiudeen and Minister of Industry and Commerce Sarath Amunugama, inaugurated the event. Sharma said India was not seeking reciprocity in trade and economic relationship with Sri Lanka and assured Sri Lanka of preferential access to the large Indian market.
“Accepting the principle of asymmetry, that India has always done as the leading economy of South Asia, we are not seeking reciprocity,” he said. Signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) will make the current economic engagement more comprehensive by bringing more investment and services into Sri Lanka.
The minister said the commerce secretaries of India and Sri Lanka will resume dialogue to resolve issues related to CEPA. Earlier during a meeting with Sri Lankan ministers, Sharma offered India’s assistance to Sri Lanka in the establishment of a special economic zone for manufacture of engineering and automobile components to be located near Trincomalee, according to a statement released by the ministry of commerce and industry.