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Ceylon Today Published the Speech by Ambassador Wu Jianghao on the economic and trade cooperation

May 21, Ceylon Today Published the Speech by Ambassador Wu Jianghao on the economic and trade cooperation between China and Sri Lanka. Read as follows:

I remember that one year ago I shared with you my tentative ideas on the economic and trade cooperation between China and Sri Lanka. During the last year the situation changed a lot. Today I would like to focus on some new ideas considering the new situation. Generally speaking, the basic conditions for the massive development of economic and trade cooperation between China and Sri Lanka have been improved a lot than last year.

First of all, H.E. President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a very successful state visit to China last May. The leaders of our two countries announced to promote our bilateral relations to a strategic cooperation partnership. This has laid a more solid platform and a firmer foundation for bilateral cooperation politically.

Secondly, infrastructure construction and the basic business environment in Sri Lanka have been improved further. Sri Lanka has made concrete progress in the field of transportation, power and water supplies and market cultivation, which created better commercial conditions for the economic and trade cooperation between China and Sri Lanka.

Thirdly, Chinese interest and attention to Sri Lanka has been enhanced greatly. In the past many people in China, when they mentioned about Sri Lanka, would ask "is that the previous Ceylon?" But with H. E. President Rajapaksa's state visit, frequent exchanges in political and economical areas, the CCTV program on Sri Lanka broadcast in golden periods for a long time, the campaign activities on the bus bodies in main cities of China made by Sri Lankan Embassy in China, have cultivated new understanding about Sri Lanka among Chinese people, especially Chinese entrepreneurs. During my one and half years' tenure as Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, there are more and more Chinese economic delegations being here.

Fourthly, China and Sri Lanka are speeding up the negotiation of FTA. Our Embassy also suggested Beijing actively that the FTA be a more favorable trade arrangement for Sri Lanka. Our suggestion has garnered more and more support in Beijing.

The fifth important positive element is that the Chinese government has put forward a new concept of 21 Century Maritime Silk Road. This is a road of friendship, economic cooperation and cultural exchanges in new era. Recently, a Chinese government delegation visited Sri Lanka to make an investigation on what kind of role Sri Lanka can play on the Maritime Silk Road. It is no doubt that Sri Lanka is a very important and key stop on this road. Sri Lanka can link Southeast Asia, serve as a hub for South Asia and connect to the Africa and Middle East. We are confident to say that Sri Lanka will enjoy a lot of development opportunities and will play a very important role during the cultivation and building process of the new Maritime Silk Road.

The above are the top five positive changes happened last year which we should pay special attention on. We should contemplate how to make use of these advantages and promote the level of economic and trade cooperation between Sri Lanka and China.

Firstly, we should work on the transformation and upgrading of the cooperation between our two sides. So far the China-Sri Lanka cooperation mainly focuses on infrastructure construction. The business of large Chinese enterprises which are actively engaged in Sri Lanka concentrate in the areas of transportation and energy. Currently, the Chinese companies are also exploring ways to transform from project construction to direct investment. As you know, Colombo International Container Terminal, which was declared open last August, is a direct investment of US $500 million from China. Now it operates quite well. China Harbor has been promoting the Port City Project actively. The Chinese companies are also looking for other investment opportunities in other fields. What does that mean to Sri Lankan companies? I think it means not only pressure, but also opportunity and motivity. It is imperative for the Chinese companies, which seek long term development in Sri Lanka, to strengthen cooperation with Sri Lankan enterprises and Sri Lankan economic circles, and this kind of cooperation will make the platforms and pipelines of bilateral economic cooperation more plentiful and solid. We are encouraging the Chinese companies, including Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka, to strengthen exchanges with their Sri Lankan counterparts, such as Sri Lanka China Business Council, such as holding some seminars and workshops to discuss how to improve the cooperation together. I also encourage the Chinese companies to join the Sri Lanka China Business Council as a member. I really hope that Sri Lankan companies could join hands with their Chinese partners to develop and benefit together during this process of promoting and realizing the development of Sri Lanka.

Secondly, we should promote bilateral trade. I personally think that there was no substantial change in this area last year. The total volume increased slightly, but the Chinese surplus over Sri Lanka is still that big while Sri Lanka's deficit remains relatively large. This is absolutely not what we seek for. The total trade volume between China and Sri Lanka is just more than USD 3 billion. China can get trade surplus of USD 3 billion from any part of the world easily, there is no necessity for China to add this burden or put pressure upon our Sri Lanka friend. What is the deeper reason for the trade situation and how to solve it? First of all, China should continue to improve the circumstances to facilitate Sri Lanka's exports to China. We have kept making efforts in this regard and with the installation of FTA in the future, I believe the circumstances will be further improved in the near future. Secondly, Sri Lankan side also need to make some efforts. Frankly speaking, the variety, quantity and quality of exports from Sri Lanka to China have not reached ideal level yet. There are two solutions, one is that Sri Lankan enterprises, such as the members here today, make your own efforts, and the other is to expand the scale of production and improve product quality through the cooperation with Chinese enterprises. If we can make progress in these fields, we will have a wider space on trade expansion. For instance, in the area of light industry, Sri Lanka has a lot of comparative advantages, such as lower costs, which will become lower and lower year by year. I would like to suggest that we must seize this great opportunity. We will recommend the visiting Chinese entrepreneurs to meet their Sri Lankan counterpart to explore cooperation face to face. At the same time, we welcome more and more Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to visit China.

Thirdly, we should enhance mutual understanding. Mutual understanding is a commanding element in bilateral cooperation which has an impact on all aspects. There is a lot of news about the economic and trade cooperation between Sri Lanka and China in the media lately. Normally people only have a glance at those positive articles, but pay more attention on the negative ones. I hope you can have a comprehensive look at them, both positive and negative, then draw your own conclusions through your own analysis. From a macroscopic view on the matter, I think more information on bilateral economic cooperation is a good thing, which indicates that the cooperation between our two sides are enhanced. There was seldom such article a few years ago, because at that time our cooperation is few and in small scale. It is a common rule in every country that there must be someone pointing finger at you as long as you do something. It is much easier to criticize than doing something. I hope the enterprises from both sides can speak in a common voice together to help the public understand more on the mutual beneficial nature of our bilateral cooperation, and encourage the media as well as normal people to support our cooperation.

Finally, the Chinese government, including our embassy, will continue to render our fullest support to the bilateral economic and trade cooperation. I have personally suggested to Beijing that we work together with our Sri Lanka friends to build pillar industries in national economy of Sri Lanka so as to achieve Sri Lanka's goal of building the Wonder of Asia. Under this framework, we have a lot of things to do. Thank you all.

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