Improved business prospects, increasing inflow of international students, supply agreements, business-to-business relationships are among the outcomes of the official visit of Prime Minister John Key and his delegation to Sri Lanka from February 23 to 27, 2016.
The delegation included former Foreign Minister and Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Don McKinnon, Tait Communications Limited Garry Diack, Fonterra Cooperative Group Chairman John Wilson, Powershield Limited Chief Executive Len Thomas, Patton Limited Chief Executive Sameer Handa and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise Board Member Charles Finny.
The official delegation of New Zealand included Grahame Morton, Non-Resident High Commissioner to Sri Lanka based in Delhi, Clayton Kimpton, NZTE Regional Director, Kevin McKenna Consul General based in Mumbai and Senaka Silva, Honorary Consul in Sri Lanka.
During his stay in Sri Lanka, Mr Key met Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other officials of the host government.
Somasundaram Skandakumar, Sri Lanka’s Non-Resident High Commissioner to New Zealand based in Canberra was also present at official meetings.
Human Capital flow
Emphasising the need to take the existing cordial relationship between the two countries to the next higher level, Mr Key said that there were about 12,000 Sri Lankans settled in New Zealand and that more than 8000 New Zealanders visit Sri Lanka every year as tourists. The number of Sri Lankans visiting New Zealand every year, placed at 2500 a year, has scope for increase, he said.
The two Prime Ministers conferred on the areas of economic cooperation and scope for increasing bilateral trade and said that Sri Lanka exports quality products and services, chief among which are Tea and Cinnamon.
International student arrivals from Sri Lanka, placed at 1000 last year, also has scope for improvement. Mr Key said that his government welcomed the efforts being made in various fields including Veterinary Sciences, Pilot Training and Accounting.
Mutual love for sports, especially Cricket and Rugby was also noted.
Mr Key described Sri Lanka as ‘The Glowing flame of Asia” and commended the country’s programme of national reconciliation and constitution reforms.
Among the highlights of the visit was the official opening of Fonterra’s Demonstration & Training Farm by Mr Key at which more than 300 dignitaries were present. Among them was Sustainable Development & Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera and Fonterra Chairman John Wilson.
The Farm is part of Fonterra’s Dairy Development Programme, which supports the growth of sustainable dairy industries in key markets.
“Fonterra and Anchor have a long history in Sri Lanka and we are committed to supporting the development of the country’s dairy industry. Our work to strengthen the Sri Lankan dairy industry not only helps local dairy communities but also allows us to support the growth of local dairy consumption and continue building our presence in this key market,” Mr Wilson said.
The Farm will focus on helping Sri Lankan farmers improve milk quality and run their farming businesses more efficiently and profitably, he added.
A banquet hosted by Mr Sirisena in honour of Mr Key and his delegation was attended by Mr Wickremesinghe, his cabinet colleagues, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Arjuna Mahendran, Varna Limited Managing Director Channa Wickremesinghe officials of the government, diplomats and business and community leaders.
Speaking at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Mr Key said that the purpose of his visit was to reinforce the growing economic ties between the two countries, illustrate the type of capabilities that New Zealand offers Sri Lanka and acknowledge commercial initiatives underway between New Zealand and Sri Lankan companies.
Chamber Chairman Samantha Ranatunga described the visit of the New Zealand Prime Minister as ‘another milestone’ for the organisation.
“The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, established in 1839 is the oldest business Chamber in Sri Lanka and among the oldest in the Asia,” he said.
Later, Mr Handa signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of Patton Refrigeration with Frostaire Chairman & Managing Director Mukthar Marikkar, while Mr Thomas signed a MoU with S Puvaneswaran, Chief Executive, Assidua Technologies for supply of equipment.
I was privileged to be a part of the delegation from New Zealand.
Wenceslaus Anthony is Chairman & Managing Director of WAML Group based in Auckland.