Sri Lanka and the Czech Republic shared common values in terms of democracy, liberty and prosperity and hence its necessary to improve the ability of doing business between the two countries, and the future of relations between the two countries was based on strengthening contacts and boosting bilateral trade, said Czech Ambassador Mr. Hovorka, who is accredited to Sri Lanka but based in New Delhi, while inaugurating the first meeting of Czech-SriLanka Business forum held at the Hilton Hotel recently.
He also said that Sri Lanka had emerged as one of the best tourist destinations in Asia and was visited by a growing number of Czech tourists. Mr. Hovorka also stated that the Czech Republic is an integral part of European Union which is Sri Lanka’s largest export market. Sri Lanka could also look at Czech participation in the development of infrastructure given the strong know how of Czech companies in this specialized area, he added.
The Board of Investment of Sri Lanka and Czech Republic Business Mission held a series of meetings to discuss possibilities of greater economic co-operation in Sri Lanka, especially in the area of investment.
The visiting Czech delegation was led by Mr. Ivan Jancarek, Junior Deputy Minister for Non-European Cooperation who was on an official visit to Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
The Deputy Minister led a delegation of 11 business entities which included leading Czech Companies such as Arkon Flow Systems, s.r.o..,Bilfinger Babcock CZ s.r.o.,Czech Export Bank EGAP, ENELEX, spol s.r.o., Komercni banka, a.s., MERKO CZ, a.s., MSA, Raiffeisen bank, Technoexport – na Sri Lance VICTORIAN ENERGY, UniCredit Bank Czech and Slovakia, a.s.
Mr. Ivan Jancarek, Deputy Minister addressing the forum, highlighted the commonalities existing between Sri Lanka and the Czech Republic. He said that both were middle sized countries with the Czech Republic having a population of 10 million people against Sri Lanka’s 22 million. In addition, he added, that since it was the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Czech Republic, then part of Czechoslovakia, and Sri Lanka known at the time as Ceylon, there are many opportunities to build up ties in the current context as there had been in the past.
He further said that many decades ago Czechoslovakia had supported Sri Lanka’s development. Currently there was about US$78 million worth of trade which could be further developed. The Minister stated that what the Czech Republic could offer Sri Lanka was knowledge, trade, technology and also the fact that it was part of the European Union, the world’s largest trading block will be of importance to SriLankan businesses.
The Czech Minister also expressed an interest in technology transfers including the strong possibility of Czech institutions working very closely with Sri Lankan Universities to develop the R & D sector
Mr. Borijov Minar the Vice President of the Czech Chamber of Commerce addressing the forum described some of the business opportunities available and also the composition of the visiting trade delegation. In his address he stated that the Czech Republic is a leading exporter of machinery to Sri Lanka while his country imports textiles and tea from the Island.
He further added that the delegation was interested in taking business opportunities forward and in particular to identify and enter into joint ventures with reputed Sri Lankan enterprises. Mr. Minar noted that the delegation consisted of some of the leading Czech enterprises in areas such as energy, wine production, banking and other sectors including Skoda and Jawa.
Mr. Upul Jayasuriya, Chairman of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka addressing the visiting Czech delegation said: “Sri Lanka was the second country in Asia to start an open economy, in 1977 just after Singapore and long before countries such as India, Malaysia and China. In this quest to create an open economy, Sri Lanka created the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC) which was the precursor of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, the investment promotion agency of the country.
Jayasuriya stated that Sri Lanka was today in the 40th year of having an open economy. He also added that as the Chairman of the former Tractor Corporation, he was very familiar with products made by then Czechoslovakia which supplied Sri Lanka with a large number of tractors.
Requesting the Czech delegation to look at fresh new opportunities in Sri Lanka, said that Czech companies were free to engage in business on their own without involving a local partner. Sri Lanka does allow investors full ownership and also grants foreign investors the protection of the Constitution, he added.
Jayasuriya also welcomed Czech investors to the BOI and the following day the Czech delegation headed by Minister Ivan Jancarek visited the BOI where they were welcomed by the Chairman and Senior Officials of the BOI.
Mr. Jayasuirya stated that the BOI was delighted by the enthusiasm of the delegation from the Czech Republic and it was important for that country to regard Sri Lanka as a gateway to the South Asian Region. As the Free Trade Agreements with both India and Pakistan cover over 4000 items in each agreement, Czech companies could use Sri Lanka as a platform for manufacturing and exporting to the two very large South Asian markets.
The Chairman also stated that Sri Lanka holds valuable mineral deposits such as ilmenite and rutile that could be refined for manufacturing titanium dioxide and Nano titanium, both being very valuable products. Furthermore Sri Lanka is also one of the few countries to have deposits of vein graphite which posseses about 99% in purity.
The meetings held between the Czech Republic and Sri Lanka showed the potential that exists for greater economic co-operation including investment, between two medium sized countries in Europe and Asia and will augur well for the future.
(Courtesy : Media Department Board of Investment of Sri Lanka)