ITC Executive Director closing statement at the WEDF 2016
13 October 2016 - Colombo, Sri Lanka
We have nearly come to the end of a very exciting and productive 16th edition of the World Export Development Forum. My sincere thanks go to the people and government of Sri Lanka for their warm and gracious hosting; and to the Sri Lankan Export Development Board and Sri Lankan business for the close partnership in making this conference such a success. Sri Lanka deserves a big round of applause. I hope the new partnership established between the government and the private sector will remain for the future.
Thank you to all of the panellists, thought leaders and entrepreneurs we have had over these past few days. The standards have been exceptional, the views provocative and the recommendations practical.
The Forum has been about talking business and doing business. I hope that you have made new business contacts, started doing lucrative deals and added some useful concepts and ideas to your business, trade and development toolboxes.
I believe we all will come away today with greater insight about how to successfully navigate the 21st century challenges to trade and seize opportunities that are there for the taking.
Meeting international standards, both public and private; using e-commerce and digital solutions to unlock greater opportunities and access new markets around the world; investing in 'the authentic' tourism experience as a creator of jobs and investment; better supporting women and youth to become valuable economic actors and contribute to growth and job creation in Sri Lanka and around the world; and better understanding the new trade landscape of mega-regional trading blocs and international value chains; are just some of the main takeaways of these two days of intense discussions.
Economically empowering women was an underlying theme of all of the debates and just this morning, ITC, EDB, the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC), and the State Minister for Trade launched Shetrades Sri Lanka and rang the bell at the Colombo Stock Exchange. I applaud EDB’s pledge to set up a programme to support women in trade and look forward to further partnering with Sri Lanka on this to connect 1 million women entrepreneurs to markets by 2020. ITC will continue to support SheTrades in Sri Lanka under a programme funded by Australia.
As I mentioned, WEDF has been also about making business happen. I am pleased to report that nearly 200 companies participated in the B2B sessions from more than 30 countries. Close to 1,000 firm-to-firm meetings were arranged in a range of sectors: tourism, apparel, ICT and specialty food. Potential matches have been estimated at around 3,500. According to survey data, participants rated the sessions useful to very useful for the establishment of new business relationships. We know that dozens of initial discussions have already started and that numerous on-site visits have been arranged with a view to concluding deals. During the B2B segments, three areas were of relevance: the potential of South-South trade; the importance that Sri Lankan business attaches to meeting standards, including social standards; and renewed confidence in Sri Lanka as an investment destination. An exhibition organized by representatives of Sri Lankan business created much buzz.
Sri Lanka has been referred to in this meeting as the pearl of the Indian Ocean. And indeed it is a 'pearl': A dynamic land of opportunity; a natural hub strategically positioned at the crossroads of east-west trade routes.
Mr. Minister, you can continue to count on ITC’s support as you emphasize growth in exports, job creation and value addition. As I mentioned yesterday work will commence soon on a European Union funded project to support value chain development in Sri Lanka.
It is a pleasure to now present you with a special award that recognizes EDB’s efforts, under the direction of Madam Indira Malwatte, to strengthen the World Export Development Forum and to honor EDB’s contributions to national economic development.
Looking ahead, ITC is excited about the next edition of the World Export Development Forum and plans have already been initiated. I would like to sincerely thank the Government of Hungary for generously offering to host the meeting in one year’s time. We very much look forward to working with you on this joint project and making it a success. See you all in Hungary in 2017!
Let me in closing also thank staff in ITC for a job well done.