Press releases

European Union and the United Nations launch project to support trade in Sri Lanka

16 November 2016
ITC News

(Colombo) – The European Union today launched a €8 million (LKR 1.3 billion, US$8.6m) project that will help Sri Lanka increase its trade competitiveness in regional and European markets. The project will be implemented over a period of four years by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Department of Commerce.

Speaking at the launch of the project, European Union Ambassador to Sri Lanka Tung-Lai Margue said: ‘Trade is a key factor in stimulating economic development of countries. This project has been jointly designed with the Government of Sri Lanka, and brings together policymakers, government agencies, business leaders, chambers of commerce and apex organisations with the aim of improving competitiveness gaps and expanding international trade.’

The Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica and Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake signed the Financing Agreement for the project on 16 March 2016.

Rishad Bathiudeen Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka, said: ‘I am pleased to witness the initial EU funding breakthrough that I originally announced in January now becoming a reality. Our consensual government wants to expand global trade by entering into many new and powerful free trade agreements while positioning SMEs, exports and value chains to become growth drivers in their economic development roadmap and in such a context of major transition. This €8m project is a timely intervention that catalyses Sri Lanka’s accelerated journey towards the upper ranges in global middle income ranks.’

The project will help Sri Lanka integrate WTO policies and regulatory reforms to make the most of the potential opportunities from the EU’s GSP Plus scheme and greater regional integration. It will also address compliance standards and efficiencies in cross border procedures, which are key constraints to market access, especially for small and medium businesses. Specific attention will be given to enhancing value chains in the spice, food and IT Business Process Outsourcing sectors.

Ashish Shah, Director of Country Programmes at ITC, said ‘More than 80% of businesses in Sri Lanka are SMEs, representing 35% of total employment. Strengthening the export capacities of SMEs in sectors with high potential for job creation was a main focus of the recent World Export Development Forum held in Sri Lanka, and plays a critical contribution to ensuring inclusive growth in the country. At ITC we will help unlock the competitiveness of Sri Lankan SMEs through building productive capacity and supporting trade facilitation reforms.’

UNIDO will support Sri Lanka’s efforts to integrate into the regional and multilateral trading system through a quality programme aimed at the food and spices sectors’ productive chains. This is expected to strengthen the National Quality Infrastructure, enhance the technical capacity and improve compliance with quality and sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.

A steering committee, co-chaired by the Ministry of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs and the Delegation of the European Union, will provide overall direction to the project. Competent national level agencies and apex business entities will support work-plan development and implementation of activities.

Notes for the editor

About ITC – ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. For more information, visit Follow ITC on Twitter: @ITCnews

For further information please contact:

Contact ITC:

Jarle Hetland

Media Officer
T: +41 22 730 0145

M: +41 79 582 91 80

E: Hetland [at] (Hetland[at]intracen[dot]org)

Contact ITC:

Ms. Sylvie Bétemps Cochin,

Trade Promotion Officer,

Office for Asia and the Pacific,

T: +41 22 730 0204

E: betemps [at]



Contact Ministry of Industry and Commerce:

Ms. Sonali Wijeratne,

Director General of Commerce, Department of Commerce,

T: +94 11 243 0068