In clear signs that Sri Lanka’s trade with India is set to grow further and recent noise about Sri Lanka in Tamil Nadu has almost no impact on the surging Business-to-Business (B2B) linkages, a 45-member strong biz delegation led by S. Rethinavelu, Senior President of the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (TCCI) is now in Colombo and successfully finalising B2B meetings and linkages across town
The TCCI is one of the powerful business chambers in all of India and the principal business chamber in Tamil Nadu with more than 6,500 member organisations.
Sri Lanka itself is bullish on trade cooperation with TN, which reported 18% growth in its State GDP in 2011.
“TN’s state GDP in 2011 was $ 119 billion, the fourth largest state economy within India, claiming 7.5 per cent of India’s GDP and growing at 18 per cent in 2011. It is also the second largest software exporting state in India by value. As Sri Lanka too is a resurgent economy with growth thanks to the vision of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, we see opportunities of mutual gain,” announced Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka yesterday.
Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the 45-member TN business delegation to Sri Lanka, which arrived in Bombardier Q400 of SpiceJet on 20 September in Colombo led by S. Rethinavelu, Senior President of TCCI at Taj Samudra Hotel.
The Madurai-headquartered TCCI has more than 6,500 business and industry member organisations under its wing. The TCCI delegation’s flight was the inaugural international flight of Madurai airport in Tamil Nadu. Mihin Lanka is scheduled to start Colombo-Madurai-Colombo services from 7 December 2012.
The trade delegation business meeting on 21 September was also attended by Sri Lankan biz such as Hettigoda Industries (Pvt) Ltd., Bank of Ceylon, Delmege Forsyth, and Jafferjee Brothers, while from TN, diverse firms representing such product sectors as healthcare, spice trading, construction steel, info tech, rubber and coir, vocational training, corrugated cartons, fabrics, plywood petroleum, dairy, timber, floriculture and major distributors (such as Nestle products) were taking part, along with pan-Indian firms such as AirIndia.
After the trade delegation business meeting session in the morning, B2B sessions started with such renowned Lankan heavyweights as the Bank of Ceylon, Ceylon Biscuits Ltd., Hettigoda Industries (Pvt) Ltd., Ceyoka (Pvt) Ltd., Dankotuwa Porcelain PLC, Delmege Forsyth, Dlanka Fin Exports, Jafferjee Brothers, Indocol Steels, Indusky Aviation (Pvt) Ltd., Infotechs Travels, International Foodstuff Group of Companies, Malwatte Valley Plantations PLC, Mangala Electronic Supermarkets (Pvt) Ltd., and Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka.
According to the Deputy High Commissioner of India in Sri Lanka, P. Kumaran, the powerful TCCI’s business visit to Colombo is “greatly helping to overcome recent noise levels in TN”.
Kumaran, himself hailing from Madras in TN, said: “Given our historic relations between the two countries, it is natural that we should expand on trade. The next step is to expand our trade relations further. During Minister Anand Sharma’s recent visit to Colombo in August, he stressed the need to increase bilateral trade from current $ 5 b levels to $ 10 b by 2015. It is an ambitious, doable target.”
As for recent Sri Lanka-targeted noise levels in TN, Kumaran said: “This event greatly helps to overcome the potential noise related to Sri Lanka. We should try to focus on positives. At people-to-people levels, there is no dearth of warmth for each other. We should not let small incidences of violence from fringe groups, regrettable as they are, to adversely affect larger, warm, people-to-people relations of both countries.”
Minister Bathiudeen, addressing the delegation, said: “You may recall that about two months ago, Sri Lanka and India established yet another milestone in the bilateral relations in the economic front, when my Indian counterpart Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles, visited Sri Lanka. During this visit we discussed series of matters that are of mutual interest to both nations. Sri Lanka’s historic relations with India are well known but more importantly it is Tamil Nadu that has been the leading entry point to the sub-continent for centuries. Therefore it is no accident that whenever we talk of India, it is Tamil Nadu that comes first to the minds of many Sri Lankans.
Bathiudeen added: “The highly industrialised and urbanised Tamil Nadu has promising prospects. Its GDP in 2011 was $ 119 billion, and it is the fourth largest state economy within India, claiming 7.5 per cent of India’s GDP and growing at 18 per cent. It is also the second largest software exporting state in India by value. The widely reported 2011 Economic Freedom of the States of India survey by Cato Institute ranked Tamil Nadu as number one state for economic freedom among all the Indian states. Therefore we see opportunities of mutual gain.
“An important investment link from Tamil Nadu with Sri Lanka is Lanka Ashok Leyland, which is a joint venture between Lanka Leyland Ltd. and Chennai based Ashok Leyland India Ltd., which is India’s second largest commercial vehicle manufacturer with a turnover of US$ 2.5 billion. I am pleased to state that Lanka Leyland, which is one of the major automotive manufacturing facilities in Sri Lanka, is vested under my Ministry. Ashok Leyland entered Sri Lanka in 1982 and started operations in 1983 as a joint venture. Since its beginning, this ISO 9001-2008 Certified company has, as of today, produced more than 42,000 trucks and buses, strengthening our transport capacity.
“I am also pleased to inform you that every month more than 4,800 air passengers travel to Sri Lanka through Madras for various purposes including sightseeing. Therefore, the travel industry is one of the strong linkages we have with Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, this number does not include Sri Lankan passengers going to Tamil Nadu on a monthly basis. When we combine two-way passenger totals, it is clear that we have strong passenger flow between the two. Also increasing the trade cooperation levels between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu are our leading companies operating in Tamil Nadu such as Aitken Spence and John Keels Logistics India.”
Past Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and Indo Lanka Chamber of Commerce Mano Selvanathan, addressing the delegation, said: “This is also an event to celebrate the inaugural Spicejet flight to Colombo. The CCC, from the inception, promoted business cooperation between India and Sri Lanka. The Indo Lanka Chamber of Commerce under CCC now has 112 organisations.”
Senior President of Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry Madurai, S. Rethinavelu, addressing the event, said: “When we talk of India-Sri Lanka bilateral trade, the bulk of it is conducted with Tamil Nadu, rather than all other states of India. Most products coming to Sri Lanka are not covered under the Indo-SL FTA but most products going from Sri Lanka to India, and Tamil Nadu come under the ISFTA. The TCCI brought a biz delegation to Sri Lanka in 1999 and entered into a MoU successfully with FCCISL. The MoU was on improving bilateral business-to-business cooperation. Today’s MoU is another milestone in bilateral cooperation between the two countries.”
According to the Department of Commerce, in 2011 the total trade between Sri Lanka and India ISFTA was nearly $ 1 billion. However, in regard to the bilateral trade, India’s exports to Sri Lanka in 2011 registered an annual growth of over 70% (from $ 2.5 m to $ 4,350 m), while Sri Lanka’s exports to India registered an annual growth of 16.8% (from $ 466 m to $ 521 m), resulting in $ 3,828 m Balance of Trade in favour of India with an annual increase of 84% over 2010.
In August this year, Indian Industry and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, having brought a high level delegation, announced India’s intention to double bilateral trade volumes to $ 10 b by 2015. courtesy: Financial Times