Singapore to sign Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka, tourism sector to benefit

After signing the Free Trade Agreement, Singapore is expected to increase its presence in infra and tourism sectors of Sri Lanka

Singapore ranks fifth in global 'travel freedom' index
A small transportation boat, know as a bumboat, passes skyscrapers and conserved shophouses which had been turned into restaurants and pubs along the Singapore River at Boat Quay May 11, 2015.

One year after launching negotiations, Singapore and Sri Lanka have finalised a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to be signed soon, opening up Sri Lankan infrastructure and tourism industry to Singapore companies.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who led his country's negotiating team to Singapore, said his discussions with his Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan had yielded desirable results paving the way for further strengthening bilateral trade and investment.

Describing it as a new chapter in bilateral ties with Singapore, Karunanayake appreciated the training opportunities offered by Singapore to Sri Lankan public sector officials, among other pro-active measures. "We discussed ways of further strengthening training and educational collaboration between two countries," Karunanayake said.

The Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA) essentially lowers trade barriers facilitating increased market access for Singapore companies and enhances their potential to tap opportunities in new segments such as tourism, infrastructure and industrial development.

Expected to be signed by the end of 2017, the SLSFTA will liberalise the entry of Singapore companies in key areas, simplify customs procedures and allow greater foreign direct investments. IE Singapore has already inked an agreement to collaborate with Sri Lanka to develop the Western Region Megapolis.

As of 2015, Sri Lanka was Singapore's 39th largest trading partner and bilateral trade amounted to S$2.05 billion, trade surplus in favour of Singapore at s$1.9 billion compared to Sri Lankan exports of s$146 million.

Otherwise, Singapore is a major exporter of petroleum oils and oils from bituminous minerals, automatic data processing machines and apparatuses for exchange of voice messages. Its major imports from Sri Lanka include petroleum oils and oils from bituminous minerals, precious stones and tea.

Singapore's investments reached S$656 million as of end-2014 in Sri Lanka, with several companies present in construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, food processing and services sector. Notable among them is Prima Holdings, which is the largest Singapore-based investor in Sri Lanka.

CESMA or Surbana Jurong has long been invovled in developing the master plan for Sri Lanka's Megapolis in the Western Province and the company has recently been invited by the government to develop one more megapolis for Trincomalee.

Even the iconic 39-storey World Trade Centre in Colombo, is owned by Overseas Reality (Ceylon) Ltd, which is majority owned by the Shing Kwan Group of Singapore.