A session on ‘Bilateral Trade between Sri Lanka and France’ organised by the National Chamber of Commerce was held with the participation of Ambassador of France Jean Paul Monchau, as a Special Guest Speaker and assisted by Commercial Counsellor of the Trade Section of the Embassy Jean Louis POLI, at the Chamber, last week. Additionally Government senior officials- Director General Commerce, Director General, Export Development Board and Board of Investment graced the occasion.
The Ambassador gave a very impressive presentation on bilateral trade between the two countries and the potential products and services in demand in France. He said that France is open to FDIs; two foreign countries each day invest in France. Sri Lanka should take the opportunity and invest in France. He said that the main exports to France from Sri Lanka are mainly apparel and garment products, other items are rubber based products, coco peat and fibre. Potential exportable items are gems and jewellery, spices and cashew nuts and also huge potential for tourism and investment.
The Ambassador said that he is amazed at the vast strides made in Sri Lanka and surprised to see the rapid development taking place after the war in Sri Lanka. We quote from his speech “A few years back news we receive from Sri Lanka were mainly on the war situation but this has changed drastically in the recent past. I am very confident and positive of the economy of Sri Lanka and I want to communicate this situation to my Government and the French businessmen at the transformation of Sri Lanka.
“I just would like to comment on Sri Lanka handling the CHOGM, it was very well organised with the required infrastructure. I appreciate the spirit of the people in Sri Lanka, they are very positive thinking, Sri Lanka would be included in the next 5 emerging countries in the world! According to COFACE, the French Trade Insurance Company, growth figures of Sri Lanka looks very impressive, recently Time Magazine listed out countries for investment, and Sri Lanka was one of them. Recent visitors from France were surprised at the infrastructure development.”
He further said, “Business people investing in India will now look at Sri Lanka as an investment destination. There are around 300 French companies present in India. I attended a Business Forum in India in September last year, as I had just taken up post in Sri Lanka, I will invite them to come here, economy is growing and the purchasing power of people are also growing. I feel that Sri Lanka would be an attractive destination for investment.
“I recently visited Hambantota Sea Port, which has been a controversial subject in your country, but I am confident in 15 years time no one would say that it was a wrong decision. Already Colombo Port is congested, there are nearly 200 vessels passing Sri Lanka every day in the Indian Ocean, if you attract 4 or 5 vessels a day, it will be a very good start for Hambantota,” he said.
Speaking at the session, Director General of Commerce, R.D.S. Kumararatne said businessmen who are interested in business in Europe may contact the Dept of Commerce and said that he has officers stationed in many countries including France for business development activities. He said that Sri Lankan businessmen could contact the Dept of Commerce directly so that appropriate support could be extended. Addressing the gathering Director General, Sri Lanka Export Development Board, Sujatha Weerakoon said exporters who are interested in exporting to France and other European countries could directly contact EDB and they could assist them accordingly. Board of Investment, Director Promotions, Dilip Samarasinghe emphasised on the facts and figures of investment environment in Sri Lanka.
In conclusion, the President of the National Chamber, Sunil Wijesinha, thanked the Ambassador for the positive thinking on Sri Lanka which is a much needed perception to be spread to the world.
Many chamber member company representatives were present at the interactive session, and the Ambassador and the Commercial Counselor answered the queries put forward by the participants. It was a well attended event.