* Bilateral trade tops US$ 1bn
December 28, 2012, 8:01 pm
Flanders, the industrious Belgium province renowned for its logistics hub Antwerp, wants to enhance trade and manufacturing cooperation with Sri Lanka significantly. Kris Peeters, Minister President of Flanders Region, Belgium, revealed this to visiting Sri Lankan Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 20 December when Minister Bathiudeen met Peeters in Brussels.
Minister Bathiudeen was on an official visit to Belgium when he toured Flanders on 20 December, the industry-cum-logistics centre of Northern Belgium which hosts the Port of Antwerp, the second largest seaport in Europe, and also Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Flanders is also well known globally for its tapestries and carpets tradition.
Minister Bathiudeen briefed the Minister President Peeters and his senior officials on the developments in Sri Lanka after the end of conflict in 2009 stressing that cordial trade and economic relations between the two countries have been instrumental in attracting many Belgium investors to Sri Lanka since the 1970’s. Bilateral trade which stood at $ 501 Mn in 2005 has almost reached to $ One Billion in 2011, depicting 100% growth. Today Belgium has become the fourth largest export destination for Sri Lanka’s products. Minister Bathiudeen also mentioned about many promotional activities undertaken by the Sri Lanka Embassy in Brussels under the patronage of his Ministry during the last two years which includes a visit of 50 Belgium trade business representatives from 40 companies to Sri Lanka in November 2010 for the Belgium business week organised in Colombo, the visit of the business delegation from Sri Lanka to Belgium under his leadership in November 2011, the visit of 29 business representatives of Belgium to Sri Lanka for export 2012 held in March 2012 and the participation of 40 Belgium companies in the interactive business seminar organised by the Commercial Section of the Embassy in Brussels on 21st November 2012 in collaboration with Brussels Enterprise, Commerce & Industry (BECI).Minister further stated that a Business Roundtable Meeting was scheduled to be held with his participation on 21st December 2012 at the headquarters of Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT). Minister Bathiudeen also invited Minister President Peeters to lead the trade mission to Sri Lanka scheduled to be undertaken by Flanders Investment and Trade (FIT) from the 27th May to the 5th June 2013.
Kris Peeters, Minister President welcoming the Minster and appreciating positive trends of the trade and economic relations between the two countries has stated that his region accounts for 70 percent of Belgium GDP and 80% its exports to the world. He also mentions that his region accounts for 97% of the trade between Belgium and Sri Lanka. Flanders region also attracts a large majority of foreign investments to Belgium. While presenting a copy of the White Paper on Flanders Region Industries to the Minister, the Minister President stated that innovation and value added industry are key areas that his region has prioritised on. The major port of Antwerp in the region is progressing in becoming the major hub of sea operations in Europe. The Minister President stated the possibility of offering scholarships for training facilities for port management to Sri Lanka by Antwerp/Flanders Port Training Center (APEC). Such an engagement will bring a win-win situation for the trade and economic relations between the two countries. He further said that he and his officials ready facilitate the efforts in furthering trade and economic relations with Sri Lanka.
P.M. Amza, Ambassador for EU, Belgium and Luxemburg and R.D.S. Kumararatne, Minister (Commercial & Economic Affairs) have also joined the meeting.