Sri Lankan exporters expand foothold in China as economic giant accelerates opening-up


by Sanath Nanayakkare in China

China's provincial government in Yunnan has accelerated the opening of its economy internationally through its capital Kunming, providing easy access to Sri Lankan businesses to enter the second largest economic powerhouse of the world, under its ambitious Belt and Road initiative.

Li Jiming, Director General of the Foreign Affairs Office of the People's Government of Yunnan Province told foreign media on Friday that China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, Lancang -Mekong Cooperation Zone and Pan-Pearl River Delta Economic Economic Circle overlapping Kunming put it at the crossroads of the region and makes it an important window for China's opening up to South Asian countries like Sri Lanka that are keen to increase its exports to China.

"We know that you have concerns about your countries' trade deficits with China. So, we are keen to create a win-win situation for all our neighbours in terms of trade and economic as well as wider social benefits resulting from it. We are committed to opening up a level playing field for all and that's why 42% of the ongoing 5th China-South Asia Expo and 25th China Kunming Export and Import Fair (June 13-20) accounts for foreign exhibitors. You saw for yourself that the foreign exhibitors have been given prominent booth locations with greater visibility. We have done this to promote international competitiveness and to encourage Chinese buyers to buy products made in your countries. Also, this platform will help South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka to increase trade among themselves", Li Jiming said.

Making Kunming's international business outlook more robust and sustainable, the city is making unwavering efforts to upgrade its industries, improve its doing business environment, enhance its innovative ecology, develop its financial sector, deepen its people-to-people exchanges and regional cultural ties.

Statistics from the Kunming government show it has trade ties with 115 countries and regions. Its trade with Asian partners last year hit US$ 2.12 billion, up 3.22 times year-on-year, accounting for 71.42% of its foreign trade volume.

At the ongoing China Kunming Expo, there are at least 20 Sri Lankan trade stalls exhibiting and selling Ceylon blue sapphires, precious and semi-precious gem-studded jewellery, Ceylon tea, handicrafts, batik products etc.

Chinese buyers appeared particularly keen on buying Ceylon sapphires and Ceylon tea.

However, it appeared that Sri Lanka handicraft exhibitors needed more help from their patron FCCISL to better position their products. These exhibitors told The Island Financial Review that their trade stalls are always located at the Kunming Expo in sneak corners where customer traffic is very low and hence they weren't confident that they would be able to even cover their airfare and accommodation costs.

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