Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized that the realization has dawned upon us and that rapid economic growth is only achievable through digital transformation. In today’s world, the 21st-century economy cannot compete effectively with out-dated 20th-century bureaucratic systems. To stay competitive, Sri Lanka must embrace change and modernize bureaucratic processes. By doing so, the nation can significantly reduce the time taken in administrative procedures, providing much-needed support to the people.

With the support of the International Trade Centre (ITC), Sri Lanka has successfully launched a crucial aspect of the new economy. The challenges that have been faced have underscored the importance of transforming into a competitive and export-oriented economy. To achieve this, it is not only essential to restructure the economy but also to empower and facilitate the private sector, particularly in the realm of trade. Trade plays a pivotal role as the essence of economic growth. Through trade facilitation, Sri Lanka can bolster its prospects for growth and advancement. The service that has been launched today is a vital component, contributing to both the restructuring of the economy and enabling digital transformation, the President said.

• The new economic commission law ensures the timely processing of investment and trade applications

President Ranil Wickremesinghe made these remarks while addressing the launch of key trade facilitation initiatives in Sri Lanka today (08) at the Hotel Shangri La, Colombo.

The efforts to streamline processes are just the beginning; the implementation of the new economic commission law will further expedite applications, be it for investments or trade, within specific timeframes. This transformation requires a comprehensive overhaul of regulations and perspectives, going beyond the establishment of a one-stop centre. Embracing change across the board is crucial to Sri Lanka’s success in today’s dynamic economic landscape.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe further mentioned the importance of trade facilitation and digital transformation and said that it has become evident when considering the effectiveness of a one-stop centre. Without these essential elements, progress stagnates, hindering our restructuring efforts. Simultaneously, Sri Lanka is actively exploring new markets and has already signed free trade agreements.

The President further mentioned that an application to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) reflects the pursuit of vast opportunities in a significant market. However, gaining access to such markets hinges on trade facilitation and digital transformation. Engagements with India to upgrade trade arrangements highlight the advantages of trade facilitation. It has proven beneficial in dealing with major players like the European Union and American markets, enhancing the nation’s trade prospects. Trade facilitation and digital transformation are vital for propelling Sri Lanka into new markets, streamlining processes, and maximizing economic opportunities on the global stage.

The President stressed that a crucial aspect of the efforts is the promotion of trade integration, closely linked to the ease of trade facilitation. Enhancing Sri Lanka’s position in the ease of doing business index is a priority in this regard. To achieve this, a well-functioning global trading system is essential, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) has played a significant role in this arena since its establishment after the fall of the Berlin Wall, contributing to the era of globalization. The WTO serves as the arbitrator on the rules of trading, ensuring a fair and regulated global trade environment. “We extend our gratitude to the International Trade Centre (ITC), which has been instrumental in supporting our efforts to promote trade integration,” the President mentioned. “Their valuable assistance has been pivotal in advancing Sri Lanka’s trade objectives and fostering economic growth. Through trade integration, facilitated by organizations like the WTO and the ITC, we are optimistic about improving Sri Lanka’s position in the global trade landscape and enhancing the ease of doing business for the benefit of our nation’s prosperity.

Indeed, there are current concerns surrounding trade, particularly with regard to talks of decoupling and de-risking. While globalization has shown its flaws, it has also contributed significantly to the rapid economic development of Asian regions, such as East Asia and Southeast Asia. We believe that South Asia can similarly benefit from this process. Therefore, it is essential that the global trade system remains uninterrupted and continues to function effectively. To ensure stability and progress, we are committed to abiding by the rules set forth by the WTO. It is crucial for all nations to adhere to these rules and not deviate from them. A sudden departure from the principles of globalization can have detrimental effects on economies and hinder the path to development. If there is a need to make changes to the rules governing global trade, it should be a collective and consultative process, involving the consent of all nations. This way, we can collectively address any shortcomings and work towards a more inclusive and sustainable global trade system. Our goal is to maintain a fair and equitable trading environment that benefits all nations and fosters continued economic growth and prosperity.

We recognize that the current situation concerning global trade can have far-reaching impacts, especially for smaller economies like Sri Lanka’s. As the saying goes, ‘When elephants fight, it’s the grass like us that gets trampled.’ We are determined to prevent any negative consequences on our region and its development. This is a crucial moment for South Asia and the Indian Ocean to flourish, and therefore, we are committed to upholding the rules set by the WTO. Any changes to these rules should be made collectively, with the consent of the majority, as outlined.”

The President appreciated the work that has been done in the plant quarantine sector and assures to continue the efforts in other areas and sectors as well.

Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, State Ministers Shehan Semasinghe, Kanaka Herath, Dilum Amunugama, Deputy Ambassador of the Embassy of Germany Mr. Olaf Malchow, Director International Trade Centre Dr. Rajesh Aggarwal and other officials attended this event.