High Commissioner Rohitha Bogollagama holds trade and economic discussions with The Rt Hon Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade Policy

High Commissioner Rohitha Bogollagama met with The Rt Hon Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade Policy and Minister for London on 12 December 2023 at the Department for Business and Trade of the UK and had discussions on enhancing bilateral economic and trade relations.

High Commissioner Bogollagama presented his compliments to the UK Government for the support and as well as the understanding during social, economic, and political challenges which Sri Lanka went through and explained the steadfast journey of Sri Lanka by overcoming the economic turmoil under the leadership of HE the President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

During the discussion High Commissioner Bogollagama emphasised on key areas on enhancing exports from Sri Lanka to the UK. He mentioned that ‘Sri Lanka largely depend on its manufacturing industries, especially apparel manufacturing plants which were formed with foreign investments, with improved and assured market access guaranteed through the Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA) in 1970s. However, at present the Sri Lankan apparel exports sector largely depend on the fabric imported from Far-East Asian countries due to the lack of a fabric base in Sri Lanka. The garments manufactured using these fabrics do not qualify under the ‘Double Transformation’ Rules of Origin criteria being implemented under the UK’s DCTS. Therefore, this has become a hindrance in attracting more investments into the apparel industry where the country has developed a great level of expertise over the last 50 years and particularly in Government’s efforts on post-war reconciliation measures of developing the Northen and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka and generating employment opportunities for the under-privileged youth in those areas.’

High Commissioner Bogollagama requested the UK Government that ‘without having a blanket rule being applied for raw material imported from the Far-East, but to have a look at on the value addition generated within Sri Lanka to turn the imported fabric into a garment or an apparel which is made with sophistication and are of high quality.

Minister Greg Hands expressed his gratitude to the warmth in relationships and for emphasising on the development of the North and East parts of the country as part of the post-war reconciliation actions taken by the Sri Lankan government, which the UK takes a strong interest on.  Responding to the ‘Rules of Origin’ criteria issue faced by Sri Lanka, he mentioned that the UK Department for Business and Trade is carrying out a long-term review on the ‘Rules of Origin’ criteria in general under the DCTS and Sri Lanka is a priority case study in this regard. A working group formed by the UK will analyse further on the impact of Sri Lankan apparel exports with the support of various stakeholders, in early 2024 and thereby requested Sri Lanka to be a part of the review process.

Discussing the air-connectivity between the two countries, High Commissioner Bogollagama mentioned that that with the boom in the tourism sector in Sri Lanka, the number of flights should increase as there is a heavy demand for direct travel from London to Colombo. Currently over 10,000 British travellers visit Sri Lanka a month. Therefore, High Commissioner Bogollagama requested Minister Hands to see the possibility of commencing British Airways direct flights to Colombo which was once discontinued during COVID-19 pandemic while increasing the slots for SriLankan Airlines from airports other than Heathrow, London.

In addition, High Commissioner also shared updates on the ongoing IMF Bailout Programme, the ease of import controls and currency controls being taken place subsequently. The discussions were also focused on attracting UK investments into the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka, which is crucial for socio-economic development of the country. The UK side also expressed their interest in opening of the automobile trade of Sri Lanka as the country gradually comes out of its economic difficulties.

High Commission of Sri Lanka

13 December 2023