By Hiran H. Senewiratne
The total value of export/import trade will touch AUS $ one billion before the end of this year and the bilateral trade relationship between Sri Lanka and Australia will be taken to greater heights, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Bryce Hutchesson said.
“Australia has lived the experience that Sri Lanka is now facing and we have been through our own major structural reforms. In recent decades, we have diversified our economy beyond farming and manufacturing to services, including tourism and higher education. We’re willing and able to support Sri Lanka to develop its economy, Hutchesson said at the 21 Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka-Austrial- New Zealand Business Council held last Thursday at Hotel Taj Samudra.
The HC said that at this stage the balance of trade between the two countries is not favoring either of the countries and could reach the AUS $ one billion target this year. The total trade value for the last year was approximately AUS $ 800 million, he said.
He said structural reform can be a difficult experience. “There are often entrenched obstacles to reform. Australia was once a closed economy – but we found over time a closed economy dramatically reduced our standard of living. Our economic reform and liberalisation has resulted in 24 years of uninterrupted economic growth, he added.
Hutchesson said that their aim is to work much more closely over the next few years with Sri Lankan businesses and with the full range of participants in the tourism industry and tourism training bodies of Sri Lanka.
“Australia imports tea, rubber and coconut from Sri Lanka, while Sri Lanka imports dairy products and other agri-based products from Australia. Therefore, Australia is willing to transfer technology to Sri Lanka to improve productivity in the tea, rubber and coconut sectors, he said.
He said that Australian investors are willing to come and invest in Sri Lanka in order to tap and harness benefits coming along with the Free Trade Agreements with India and Pakistan. “Further, to enhance trade and investment between our two countries, we would be happy if SriLankan Airlines could start direct flight to Australia, he said.
“We will also support the local government to be more responsive to the needs of citizens and the private sector and hope to help Sri Lanka to make it easier for businesses to do what they do best; drive economic growth and create jobs, the High Commissioner explained.
“We need to ensure that Sri Lanka’s highly educated, literate and creative women have the best chance possible to contribute to the productive economy, Hutchesson said.
“Over this period, we’ve provided more than 1,000 scholarships to Sri Lankans to study in Australia, building on your proud tradition of learning and intellectual prowess. This exchange of talent has seen many personal and professional friendships form, which are the bedrock of our relationship, he said.
“Australia’s aid to Sri Lanka seeks to generate economic opportunities for the poor; support good governance; and increase gender equality. These are the fundamental tenets of our new aid programme – reflecting the changing realities on the ground here.
“As Sri Lanka moves further down the path from conflict to inclusive peace and more broadly-shared prosperity, Australia remains ready to assist. We are strongly committed to supporting Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process,the HC added.