President Mahinda Rajapaksa has hailed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s initiative of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, saying the economic corridor bears significance to Sri Lanka’s development, Xinhua reported yesterday.
The President in an exclusive interview with Xinhua at Temple Tress said that Sri Lanka would join China’s efforts in the Silk Road trade cooperation.
President Rajapaksa said the Chinese President’s scheduled visit in Sri Lanka, which would be the first of Chinese president over the past 28 years, was “important” for the development of the bilateral ties.
He said the two nations have a history of friendly relations and the friendship was ushered into a new era since the two sides upgraded their ties to strategic cooperative partnership in May last year.
“Since I took office of the president, I have toured China for seven times, during which I have met President Xi Jinping in several occasions,” President Rajapaksa was quoted having said. “China accounts for the biggest number of my working travel destination and I am looking forward to President Xi’s visit.”
President Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka wishes to boost cooperation with China in trade and investment, which harmonizes with the framework of the 21st Century Silk Road. The two nations, since Sri Lanka ended the decade-long conflict in 2009, have effectively cooperated in re-construction and other sectors, said the president.
Chinese enterprises have been carrying out a number of infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka and the president praised the establishment as having positive impact on his country’s social stability and prosperity.
On the planned Free Trade Agreement (FTA) dialogue, President Rajapaksa said, “Our cooperation covers many sectors including industry, energy, technology, infrastructure and tourism.”
He said the FTA will boost the trade and investment ties as well as Sri Lanka’s export to China, creating new momentum for the island nation’s development.
The president said his country welcomes more Chinese visitors to tour Sri Lanka.
China is Sri Lanka’s third largest source of tourists.
The number of Chinese visitors in Sri Lanka stood at 82,000 in the first eight months of the year, seeing a year-on-year rise of 141 percent.
The figure is predicted to surpass 100,000 at the end of this year, Xinhua report added.