New Silk Road expected to be crucial for Sri Lanka’s development

china sri lanka 2Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has hailed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s initiative of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, saying the economic corridor bears significance to the island nation’s development.

The Sri Lankan President said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua at the President Palace that his country will join China’s efforts in the Silk Road trade cooperation.

Rajapaksa said Xi’s scheduled visit in Sri Lanka, which would be the first of Chinese president over the past 28 years, is “important” for the development of the bilateral ties. He said the two nations have a history of friendly relations and the friendship was ushered into a new era since the two sides upgraded their ties to strategic cooperative partnership in May last year.

“Since I took office of the president, I have toured China for seven times, during which I have met President Xi Jinping in several occasions,” Rajapaksa said. “China accounts for the biggest number of my working travel destination and I am looking forward to President Xi’s visit.”

Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka wishes to boost cooperation with China in trade and investment, which harmonises with the framework of the 21st Century Silk Road. The two nations, since Sri Lanka ended the decade-long conflict in 2009, have effectively cooperated in re-construction and other sectors, said the president. Chinese enterprises have been carrying out a number of infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka and the president praised the establishment as having positive impact on his country’s social stability and prosperity.

On the planned Free Trade Agreement (FTA) dialogue, Rajapaksa said, “Our cooperation covers many sectors including industry, energy, technology, infrastructure and tourism.” He said the FTA will boost the trade and investment ties as well as Sri Lanka’s export to China, creating new momentum for the island nation’s development.

The president said his country welcomes more Chinese visitors to tour Sri Lanka. China is Sri Lanka’s third largest source of tourists. The number of Chinese visitors in Sri Lanka stood at 82,000 in the first eight months of the year, seeing a year-on-year rise of 141 per cent. The figure is predicted to surpass 100,000 at the end of this year. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled visit to Sri Lanka would be a milestone for the bilateral ties, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Wu Jianghao has said.

The ambassador told Xinhua in an exclusive interview that Xi’s visit would be the first of Chinese president and it will set up a guideline and a blueprint for the future of the bilateral ties. Wu said the two sides upgraded their ties to strategic cooperation partnership in May last year during Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tour in China.

He said the two nations have a history of friendly relations and in recent years, the two have seen massive cooperation projects. The two countries have built high mutual trust in the world political arena, firmly backing each other on issues of core interests, said the ambassador. He said since Sri Lanka ended the 3-decade long conflict in 2009, Chinese enterprises have been storming into the island nation and statistics in sectors of trade, investment, infrastructure and tourism have seen a blossoming surge.

President Xi’s visit is expected to further enhance the Sino-Sri Lankan relations, said the Chinese ambassador. (Reuters)

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