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China and Sri Lanka are set to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by the end of 2014 which could significantly boost Beijing’s growing ties with the island nation.
A joint feasibility study for the FTA has been completed and China and Sri Lanka will push ahead with signing it before the end of the year, a statement from the Finance Ministry said on Thursday.
The finalization of the FTA study was jointly announced by Sri Lankan Finance Ministry Secretary P B Jayasundara and Assistant Minister of China’s Ministry of Commerce Wang Shouwen during an official meeting in Beijing earlier this month.
Discussions on the free trade negotiations are expected to commence soon, the statement added.
The two sides had signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to China in May 2013.
The Sri Lankan Finance Secretary has stated that the proposed FTA will “bring substantial economic and trade benefits to both countries while strengthening the friendly relationship between the two countries”.
China has earlier said it will seek the help of Colombo in creating the “21st-century Maritime Silk Road”.
“Our cooperation will range from maritime connectivity, the economy, technology, rescue and environmental protection to disaster mitigation and fishery,” said Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson earlier in February this year.
The Chinese government has in recent times also lauded the considerable progress in the country following the end of the war in Sri Lanka.
“People used to ask me if Sri Lanka is a country which is not progressing. I tell them Sri Lanka is progressing at a rapid pace,” said Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Wu Jianghao.