Sri Lanka unveils first high level JTF with India

* Four private sector  bigwigs, eight state  officials
* Ahead of Indian Com-Secy.’s visit this month

Sri Lanka has unveiled its much awaited team in the high level India-Sri Lanka Joint Task Force (ISJTF) on 03 January. The pioneering team packs not only top officials of some key Ministries but also includes four well-known private sector heavyweights, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said in a statement.

"I wish the Sri Lankan assemblage of ISJTF all success in their efforts. The ISJTF will be a major step not only in historic Indo-Lanka bilateral trade, but even in opening the huge Indian markets for our keen exporters," announced Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce on 03 January.

Bathiudeen said this in the aftermath of the first sessional meeting of Lankan ISJTF members held at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Colombo on 03 January. ISJTF, which represents top authorities of private and public sectors of both countries, was green lighted by the Cabinet in October 2011 based on the proposal of Industry and Commerce Bathiudeen. ISJTF aims at promoting bilateral trade and investment between both countries with initial sectors of focus being pharma, textiles and automotive components.

The Sri Lankan component of ISJTF consists of eight government officials and four leading private sector reps. Anura Siriwardene (Secretary, Ministry of Industry and Commerce) shall be the Chairman of the Committee joined by Dr. Y.D. Nihal Jayathilaka (Secretary, Ministry of Health), PD Fernando (Director General of Commerce), S. R. Attygalle (Deputy Secretary to the Treasury), Jagath Wijeweera (Director General of Customs-represented on 03 January by Tharaka Seneviratne, Director of Customs) V Krishnamoorthy (Director General / South Asia and SAARC, Ministry of External Affairs), Ms. Saroja Sirisena (Director General of External Affairs, Ministry of Economic Development), Wijaya Kulathilleke (Director / Investment, BOI) and from the private sector, Kulatunga Rajapaksa (Managing Director, D. Samson Industries and Co-Chair, Indo Sri Lanka CEO Forum), Susantha Rathnayaka (Chairman, John Keells Group and Chairman of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce), Ashroff Omar (CEO-Brandix Lanka and Chairman, JAAF) and Ms Ramya Weerakoon (Chairman / Managing Director of Ramya Holdings Pvt and President, National Chamber of Exporters).

"It is important that we should start focusing on strengthening bilateral trade in non-ISFTA segments and product lines as well in achieving our national export targets under the vision of HE the President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I believe that the visit of Indian Commerce Secretary this month (on 14 January) will help us to move in this direction," Bathiudeen added.

According to the Department of Commerce, in 2011 the total trade between Sri Lanka and India ISFTA  was nearly $ one billion. India’s exports to Sri Lanka in 2011 has registered an annual growth of over 70% (from $ 2.5 Mn to $ 4,350 Mn) while Sri Lanka’s Exports to India has registered an annual growth of 16.8% (from $ 466 Mn to $ 521 Mn) resulting in $ 3,828 Mn Balance of Trade in favour of India with an annual increase of 84% over 2010.

"We selected you, the Sri Lankan members, after careful study and many discussions," revealed Anura Siriwardene, Secretary of the Ministry of industry and Commerce, addressing the first JTF session. "We are looking forward to focus on further improving our bilateral trade levels while lessening existing trade barriers with India," Siriwardene stressed.

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