Sri Lanka wants to woo both China and India: investment minister

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka’s new government will aim to have good relations with both of Asia’s major emerging economies, China and India, the investment promotion minister said.

"The reality is we have to work in the Asian region and India and China are the two key players so we have to work closely with them," declared Investment Promotion and Highways Minister Kabir Hashim.

"We would be strengthening our ties with India and we will also look at working with China because they are the two main giants in the Asian region," he told reporters Friday soon after assuming office following the opposition’s win in last week’s presidential polls.

The previous regime of Mahinda Rakapaksa, ousted in the January 8 election, was seen as tilting more towards China and alienating neighbouring India.

China is now the island’s top lender and second biggest trade partner after India.

In 2013, total Indo-Lanka trade stood at 3.6 billion US dollars with the balance heavily in India’s favour with imports at just over three billion dollars.

About 65 percent of Sri Lanka’s total exports to India went under a free trade deal.

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Sri Lanka is also negotiating a free trade deal with China with whom bilateral trade has topped three billion dollars and China accounting for 17 percent of Sri Lanka’s total imports.