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Sri Lanka eyes stronger trade ties with the UAE.

Summary: As the island nation aims to become an export hub in the Indian Ocean by 2025, it's planning to improve trade figures with its sixth-largest trading partner, the UAE

Image Credit: Gulf News Archives By Priya Mathew | Deputy Chief Subeditor

Over the past three decades, Sri Lanka's ties with the UAE have grown beyond labour relations - which was the focus when the island nation opened its resident mission in 1979 - to encompass bilateral trade and investments. Today, the UAE features among Sri Lanka's top ten trade partners. "The UAE has now become Sri Lanka's sixth-largest global trading partner and eighth-largest export partner," says Charitha Yattogoda, Consul General of Sri Lanka for Dubai and the northern emirates.

Business of billions

Bilateral trade touched $1.34 billion in 2016 with the balance of trade in favour of the UAE, mainly due to oil exports. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka exported $275 million worth of goods to the UAE. "Our national brand Ceylon Tea is Sri Lanka's single-largest export product to the UAE market," says Yattogoda. Other major exports are ready-made garments, coconut- and rubber-based products, seafood, spices, gems and jewellery.

There are however plans to take bilateral relations in another direction. Last September Sri Lanka unveiled Vision 2025, which aims to position the country as an export hub in the Indian Ocean.

"As per Vision 2025, concrete steps will be taken to move from exporting mainly low-technology products to high-tech products and attracting transformational, knowledge-based investments," explains Yattogoda. "In this context, the immense potential that exists in the UAE as an export market and as a key investor in the country will shape future bilateral relations."

A number of UAE investors including Al Futtaim and Etisalat have already entered Sri Lanka. Recent years have also seen high-level bilateral visits. "Our bilateral ties were further cemented when Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, visited Sri Lanka last year," Yattogoda says.

Getaway destination

Tourists from the UAE account for a considerable proportion of the total visitors to Sri Lanka from the GCC. "In 2016, we received 107,635 tourists from the Middle East and by last September we recorded 79,190 visitors, which was a significant increase," says S. J. Mohideen, Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UAE. "Further impetus can be gained by the roadshows planned in the UAE this year."

Foreign remittances contribute 11.7 per cent to the country's GDP. With about 250,000 Sri Lankan expatriates, the UAE is among the major labour-receiving countries in the Middle East, alongside Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. "This shows the significant contribution made by our migrant community," says Yattogoda.


Head to Zabeel Park this Friday to join in Sri Lanka's 70th Independence Day celebrations. Organised by the Consulate General of Sri Lanka for Dubai and the northern emirates, Sri Lankan Day 2018 promises to be a blast with cultural shows, competitions and musical concerts. "It will be a fun-filled day for Sri Lankan families as well as foreigners," says Charitha Yattogoda, Consul General of Sri Lanka for Dubai and the northern emirates.

The largest-ever official National Day celebrations in the country will begin with a Sri Lanka-UAE Friendship Walk at the Mega Bowl to signify the strong relationship between the two nations. The event, which also marks the 25th anniversary of the consulate's establishment, will host free blood and eye donation camps, legal and employment advice centres, and food stalls serving authentic Sri Lankan fare.

"I'm proud that Sri Lankan expatriates contributed immensely to the growth of the UAE economy while playing a major role in developing Sri Lanka's economy," says the consul general. "This event is a gift for all of them to come and celebrate the relationship the two countries have been enjoying for the past several decades on a grand scale.

"There will be a number of stalls, from property developers to banking and non-banking sectors.

"It will be a meeting point for Sri Lankans who want to enjoy the benefit of an array of property options with financial facilities."

- P. M.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9SRIL
Date:Feb 4, 2018
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