Thailand and Sri Lanka forge closer ties with free trade agreement as PM Srettha visits Colombo

The new draft agreement on air services between Thailand and Sri Lanka aims to reduce barriers and facilitate trade in air services between the two countries.

The Nation

The Nation



PM Srettha is on a state visit to the island nation and is the chief guest at the country’s Independence Day celebrations. PHOTO: THE NATION

February 5, 2024

BANGKOK – Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe witnessed the signing ceremony at the Chamber Hall of the Office of the President of Sri Lanka in Colombo on Saturday.

Srettha is on a state visit to the island nation and is the chief guest at the country’s Independence Day celebrations on Sunday.

Thai Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai signed the FTA for Thailand while the Minister of Commerce, Trade, and Food Security, Kachchakaduge Nalin Ruwanjeewa Fernando, signed for Sri Lanka. It was the first FTA agreement achieved by the Srettha government, which is emphasizing more bilateral FTAs to boost the economy.

The new draft agreement on air services between Thailand and Sri Lanka, which is prepared to replace and annul the agreement signed on February 24, 1950, aims to reduce barriers and facilitate trade in air services between the two countries. The agreement covers aviation rights, safety, customs, and other related aspects by the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The MoU on collaboration between the National Gem and Jewellery Authority of Thailand and The Gem and Jewellery Research and Training Institute of Sri Lanka aims to foster cooperation in the development of gemstones and jewellery, the Thai government said. This collaboration aims to promote trade between the two countries, allowing Thailand access to sources of raw materials and gemstones. Additionally, it includes the exchange of expertise and personnel training between the two parties, the statement said.

At a press conference on Saturday, Srettha said he was greatly honoured by the warm reception he received from the president and the government of Sri Lanka. During their discussions, both Thailand and Sri Lanka affirmed their strong and close relationship at every level, rooted in shared history and culture, particularly in the Buddhist faith.

Both parties emphasised the enormous potential between them. Thailand expects the FTA to stimulate increased trade and investment. Additionally, the signing of two MoUs on aviation and gemstone development is expected to promote connectivity, tourism and transportation in the future.

In addition, the Sri Lanka-Thailand Business Forum will serve as a platform to create more business opportunities for the private sectors of both parties. Leaders from Thailand and Sri Lanka are supportive of private sectors expanding trade and investment between the two countries in the future.

In terms of investment, Thailand aims to become a logistics hub in Southeast Asia with the land bridge project, connecting the Andaman Sea with the Gulf of Thailand. This project aims to reduce transportation time between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Both Thailand and Sri Lanka can collaborate in enhancing connectivity and infrastructure through Thailand’s Landbridge project and Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port, the Thai statement said.

Meanwhile, in the tourism sector, Thailand welcomes the resumption of Thai Airways commercial flights between Bangkok and Colombo daily, starting from March 31. This will bring the two countries even closer than before. Additionally, Thailand has proposed trilateral maritime tourism cooperation involving India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, as well as promoting cultural and Buddhist tourism between them.

Srettha said he believes that close consultations should be held to push for the development of an MoU on visa exemptions for citizens of the two countries. This significant agreement aims to stimulate increased tourism exchange between Thailand and Sri Lanka.

The leaders of Thailand and Sri Lanka are committed to increasing mutual value and achieving common goals not only at the regional level but also on the international stage, the Thai statement said. This includes participation in forums such as BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), Indian Ocean Rim Association, and ASEAN, the statement said. The aim is to foster economic prosperity. Thailand will host the 6th BIMSTEC Summit this year and it is keen to promote strong and creative participation from the Sri Lankan side.

Trade between Thailand and Sri Lanka has grown by 16% compared to 2021. Thai exports increased by 7.4%, while Sri Lanka’s exports surged by 43%. In the manufacturing sector, Sri Lanka stands out in seafood processing. The potential for collaboration between companies from both countries could propel this industry into the global market.

At the Sri Lanka–Thailand Business Networking event, Srettha said, “Strike while the iron is hot”, expressing readiness to support businesses from both sides to fully benefit from the FTA.

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