Address by ITC Executive Director at the launch of the Sri Lanka national export strategy

19 July 2018
ITC News

Honourable Prime Minister
Honourable Ministers
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to celebrate the launch of Sri Lanka’s National Export Strategy. When I think of Sri Lanka, aside from the smiling faces and beautiful landscapes, I see a country in rapid transformation. I see a country that simultaneously builds on its existing assets and embraces the rapidly changing global economic environment and the opportunities offered by an “Emerging Asia”.

”Emerging Asia” is estimated to experience an annual growth rate of 6.3% from 2018 to 2022. With the rapid development of trade corridors across the region and the growing demands of Asian consumers, Sri Lanka is strategically positioned in the Indian Ocean to service regional consumers and leverage immense trading opportunities. A growing Asia enables Sri Lankan SMEs and established exporters to service consumers beyond the 21 million people in the domestic Sri Lankan market. The Island’s strategic location offers an incredible prospect for Sri Lanka to serve as an e-commerce platform serving the region.

Sri Lanka’s dynamic workforce, combined with structured efforts to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship, and a growing and dynamic IT industry, provide all the right ingredients for the Island to create value in regional and global production networks.

The current “Economic Reform Agenda” of the Government of Sri Lanka, which aims to transform the Island into an open and dynamic trading economy, symbolises a confident nation. It signifies national readiness to seize a historic opportunity for long-term growth and benefit for all Sri Lankans. The modernisation of Sri Lanka’s trading environment will guide efforts towards export diversification and greater local value added.

With its alignment to the Government’s Vision 2025 and the National Trade Policy, the National Export Strategy is a key enabler of Sri Lankan trade reforms. The National Export Strategy or NES, that we are launching today is the tool for Sri Lanka to become a key regional trade hub “serving Asia and beyond”.

I want to commend the Government of Sri Lanka and the private sector for having worked hand in hand to develop this comprehensive strategy. The more than six hundred public and private participants in the NES design process guarantee that new economic opportunities will be generated for men and women from all corners of the island.

The commitment of all key public and private institutions from Hambantota in the south to Jaffna in the north, is a true demonstration of the Sri Lankan commitment to making the Island recognized for its export potential.

The Strategy sets out specific priority actions to solve competitiveness constraints, turn market opportunities into real-life success stories, modernise regulatory systems for improved efficiency and attract investments to invigorate Sri Lankan value chains.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. This is why the strategy is only as valuable as it is implemented. And it is worth implementing it since it could generate up to $28 billion in export revenues.

I am pleased that implementation has already started with financial allocations from the national budget of 2018. This highlights the earnestness of the Government for quickly moving into action and helps to maintain momentum in remodelling the export sector. This engagement confirms that the strategy is a living document that will stay relevant and vibrant to navigate national economic development.

The official appointment of Advisory Committees under the EDB to coordinate implementation and the setting up of a management unit to coordinate annual work plans reaffirms dedication of public and private partners to work hand in hand to implement reforms. Coordination and synergy of all partners in the coming months will be crucial to move into cruising speed.

With my presence here today I want to send a strong signal of ITC’s commitment to continue to work with Sri Lanka for trade success.

I would like to thank the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka for its support for the design of the National Export Strategy as part of its initiative to support EU-Sri Lanka trade. In this context, ITC is already supporting a number of recommendations in the Strategy such as regulatory reforms in the logistics sector, implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and the branding of export industries such as IT. And under “SheTrades” we are supporting women entrepreneurs connect to global markets.

I am also pleased of the collaboration with UNIDO in the design of the National Quality Infrastructure strategy which is now being put into action.

The Strategy we are launching today offers Sri Lanka’s development partners a coherent set of areas around which to programme trade development initiatives in line with Sri Lanka’s national priorities.

Let me reiterate ITC’s commitment to pursue its collaboration with Sri Lanka on its road to making Sri Lanka an export hub driven by innovation and investment. A hub where trade contributes to inclusive development, job creation and collective prosperity.

As Sri Lanka embarks on a new chapter of its development, I wish you all and your country every success.

Thank you