A Sri Lankan business delegation led by President Maithripala Sirisena is due to visit Iran shortly and officials have begun work on formulating travel procedures, a Trade Ministry official said.
“The President’s forthcoming tour of Iran could open many new doors of opportunities for Lankan businesses,” Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.
Minister Bathiudeen was addressing a team of officials from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce including the Department of Commerce, EDB, the BOI, Tea Board, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, National Chamber of Commerce, and Foreign Ministry at his Ministry premises on Tuesday. The objective of the visit is to explore bilateral trade, investment and tourism potential topped up by a business forum.
Joining the session was Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Islamic Republic of Iran in Colombo, M. R. Ahmadi.
“Iran-Sri Lanka relations have strengthened in recent years but bilateraltrade growth has not met our expectations despite the end of sanctions . In fact, in 2015, our total trade with Iran was $162 mn, a small amount in comparison to previously higher trade levels,” he said.
“President Sirisena’s tour of Iran could open many new doors for Lankan businesses and get bilateral trade levels back on track. Therefore, let us collaborate for a strong trade delegation to Iran consisting of representatives of Lankan exporters, importers, manufacturers and service providers so that Sri Lanka can leverage this opportunity,” Minister Bathiudeen said.
“I believe that we should not send only a business delegation and merely make speeches but also should make joint business presentations with our Chambers to Iranian investors and also organise several B2B meetings so that this visit is leveraged well for the business sector of the country,” he said.
Deputy Head of Mission of Embassy of Iran in Colombo, M. R. Ahmadi stressed on the surging interest on the Iranian side on the forthcoming meet. “Our Ministry of Industry and Commerce and business Chambers has also begun preparations for your arrival in Tehran,” said Deputy Head of Mission of Embassy of Islamic Republic of Iran in Colombo, said M. R. Ahmadi adding, “We look forward to explore a wide range of sectors for cooperation during this meet. We believe the planned Business Forum could also bring in new openings.”
Before the sanctions came into effect, bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Iran stood at a $ 1.6 billion (2011), but in 2015 it totaled $162 mn, of which $155 mn were exports to Iran from Sri Lanka. 85% of such exports were Ceylon Tea, followed by coconuts, bananas, spices etc.
Minister Bathiudeen and the Department of Commerce believe that there exists great future potential for Sri Lankan made apparel, rubber products, gem and jewellery, and food and beverages.