Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Türkiye meets the President of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce
The meeting took place recently at the headquarters of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce, with the participation of S. Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Türkiye, Mr. Gürsel Baran, President of Ankara Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Sancar Sefer Süer, and Deputy Secretary General of Ankara Chamber of Industry with a few other officials.
Ankara Chamber of Commerce has over 160,000 members and 68 professional committees covering different sectors.
Following the tradition of exchange of gifts, Ambassador thanked Mr. Baran and told that she assumed duty in the Embassy in November 2022 and presented her Credentials at the end of December 2022. She added that the Embassy was preparing for the Sri Lanka’s 75th year of independence, when the catastrophic earthquake struck this land where great civilizations from the west and the east converged and continue to evolve. Thereafter, the whole focus was on ensuring the safety of Sri Lankan nationals as well as to support the Turkish people in all possible ways to overcome the ramifications of such an unprecedented catastrophe.
Ambassador conveyed her condolences on the sad occasion and stated that the government of Sri Lanka and people all are standing with Türkiye in solidarity. She briefed on the immediate actions and measures taken by the Embassy and contributions made by Sri Lankan state, Embassy in Ankara and Honorary Consuls of Sri Lanka in Türkiye.
Mr. Baran also appreciated the role of the Embassy of Sri Lanka with leading an initiative to raise funds among the diplomatic corps in Ankara, with the blessings of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara, and handing over to the Türkiye Disaster and Emergency Management (AFAD).
Ambassador Dissanayake stressed that while the earthquakes were major calamities, but as human race has evolved with making bets use of each and every challenge that it faces, this is also provides an effective and essential turning point to build back better and also noted that the difficult times have brought some of the neighboring countries which not necessarily have close relations with Türkiye, to show their empathy and extend support. Further, the Ambassador admired that in spite of unprecedented difficulties, Türkiye has not backed off on its regional and international initiatives and obligations and continue to play a strategic role with its continued soft diplomacy, particularly with regard to Ukraine and Russia.
Mr. Baran said that the earthquake was indeed the largest disaster of the century and thanked the Ambassador and Sri Lanka for all the support extended and her individual contributions and sensitivity on the subject.
Ambassador also briefed on the approval of the Extended Fund Facility spread out for a period of 48 months amounting to close to 3 billion USD by the IMF Executive Board on 20th March 2023 which is considered as a major step in addressing the financial crisis in Sri Lanka. President was happy to note the agreement with the IMF and hoped for the best results for the country. Ambassador further briefed on the elements which will be focused on under the IMF.
Mr. Baran noted that there are 12 industrial zones, 21 universities, 11 technology development centers 140 Research and Development Centers in Ankara. He added that Ankara has a trade volume of about 26 billion USD and is home to one of the most important defense industry sector not only in Türkiye but globally as well. He named other important economic sectors in Ankara as health tourism, medical products, and thermal springs. He said that the Chamber strives to establish Ankara as an Exhibition and Convention City, increase the number of international flights and tries to create value addition by organizing events on Geographical Indication (GI).
He recalled the online meeting with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce a few years ago and signing of an MoU; he further added that with COVID-19 matters did slow down but now they are ready to expedite collaborations noting that there is much potential for economic cooperation.
Ambassador welcomed the suggestion and invited a delegation from the Chamber to visit Sri Lanka in the 3rd quarter of 2023 noting that the two countries are celebrating 75 years of diplomatic relations in 2023.
She briefed on potential sectors for collaboration for trade, investment and tourism and benefits that Turkish companies could have through various trade arrangements that Sri Lanka has as well as raw materials present in Sri Lanka for manufacturing industries and the legal instruments that are expected to be completed in the near future related to investment promotion and protection, avoidance of double taxation and customs matters that would enhance effective economic cooperation. Opportunities in the renewable energy, hospitality industry were highlighted in addition to using a range of high valued and high quality minerals that can be value added such as graphite, ilmenite, rutile, kaolin, etc. were mentioned. She further added that Sri Lanka had been a gem producing and trading center for over two millennia and most famous for its blue sapphires. The investment opportunities available in the Port City also were discussed. She further noted that Sri Lanka is also known for centuries for its spices and of all black pepper and Ceylon Cinnamon, which is sweeter and has very low coumarin level making it unique and healthy among other varieties of cinnamon in the market and it already has GI certificate.
In the discussion Ambassador Dissanayake further underscored the exiting high taxes on value added teas, likely to protect the local producers of tea in Türkiye, which is severely impacting export of Sri Lanka’s high value added luxury teas to Türkiye. She noted that it is not only preventing Turkish people to enjoy high quality Ceylon Tea, but the government is also losing revenue as a certain amount of such high quality teas are smuggled through the boarders and thereby custom revenues are lost. President took note of the situation and the long term ramifications. However, Ambassador emphasized that when changes are made to such taxes and systems it needs to be done is a systematic manner ensuring that locals who are growing tea understand and are supported to improve the quality and or to move to another livelihood.
Extensive discussions were held on potential areas for economic cooperation to increase trade volume, investment and tourism in a mutually beneficial manner.
Meeting concluded with agreeing for further discussions on specific sectors for collaborations and preparing accordingly to organize a delegation to Sri Lanka in October 2023 when Türkiye would be celebrating its 100th Anniversary of founding of the Republic in partnership with the Turkish embassy in Colombo.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
24th March 2023