Standard Chartered Sri Lanka together with Standard Chartered China recently organised the ‘Showcase Sri Lanka: 2021 China – Sri Lanka Virtual Investor Forum’ to highlight the partnership potential between the two countries and the emerging strategic opportunities in a shifting global landscape. This webinar was the first initiative undertaken through the partnership between Standard Chartered Sri Lanka and the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI) to promote Sri Lanka as a preferred investment destination and work together to bring targeted Chinese investments into the country.
Setting the background for beneficial investments in Sri Lanka, Dr. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka Ambassador for the Republic of China said, “Sri Lanka has always had a close and warm relationship with China. We recently concluded the bilateral investment protection agreement to add an additional layer of security for Chinese investors as well as implemented a double taxation agreement to ensure that investors will not have to pay taxes in either country. Any Chinese investor coming into Sri Lanka should also note that we have signed free-trade agreements with India, Pakistan and Singapore and that we are well connected to Australia, South East Asia, Middle East and Africa by sea with more than 35,000 vessels sailing past the country annually.”
Emphasising on the timeliness of the forum was keynote speaker, Hon. Ajith Nivard Cabraal, State Minister of Finance, Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms. “There is no better way of protecting investors than giving them the signal that Sri Lanka will take the necessary steps to honour our commitments. Even during the pandemic, Sri Lanka passed the Colombo Port City commission law, which sets the bedrock for the value addition that would take place in our business ventures and business activities with the rest of the world. My invitation to investors from China comes with the reassurance that we will be providing them with new opportunities, supported by regulatory framework, to take their investments to a level that can really make projects very feasible here in Sri Lanka.”
Sanjaya Mohottala, Chairman, Board of Investment Sri Lanka, delivered a presentation to showcase how Chinese investors can take advantage of the diverse opportunities in Sri Lanka across sectors such as manufacturing – specifically in apparel and pharmaceuticals, ICT, tourism, agri and food processing and infrastructure. He said, “Sri Lanka is ranked one of the most peaceful countries in South Asia. With its progressive and investor-friendly laws, backed by a constitution that protects investors, it becomes a low-risk environment for anyone looking to invest in the country. As the apex agency for promoting and facilitating foreign direct investments in Sri Lanka, BOI will provide investors with end-to-end facilitation, and help them set up their business in Sri Lanka in the shortest possible time.”
Tim Xiao, Senior General Manager – Port Investment Services and Legal, Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) & Secretary General to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce touched on the importance of creating “ease of doing business” for international investors through the establishment of Hambantota’s multi-purpose port. The infrastructure in place holds an industrial park with container, break bulk, RORO & energy services terminals, which would enable the logistic savings on investors’ exports and imports. He said, “We are a Free Port which gives the freedom for industries to carry out their trade activities, through the exemption of Customs within the bonded area. In addition, the port investment services does go the extra mile to accommodate foreign investments through the establishment of the One Stop Shop (OSS) with the BOI together with providing extended coordination services ranging from company registration to governmental, logistics and financial services.”
Highlighting the importance of the geographical location of Sri Lanka was Li Xing, Head of Sales & Marketing, CHEC Port City Colombo. “Sri Lanka has quick access to a wide range of booming markets around the world and will soon pave the way for Port City Colombo to become a lucrative economic hub for entertainment, health care, education and offshore financial services. The recently passed Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill will allow enterprises entering the port to conduct offshore services and enjoy tax reduction policies, making it the ideal destination for foreign companies to invest in.”
Moderated by Janet Ming, Executive Director, Head of Belt & Road, Standard Chartered China, the panel discussion conducted at the end of the forum featured speakers Dr. Palitha Kohona, Sanjaya Mohottala, Tim Xiao and Li Xing. Representing Standard Chartered Bank at the discussion was Bingumal Thewarathanthri, Chief Executive Officer in Sri Lanka and Jean Lu, Head of Client Coverage, Corporate Commercial Institutional Banking in China.