Assembly speaker seeks support for Korean businesses in Sri Lanka

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Assembly speaker seeks support for Korean businesses in Sri Lanka
National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug and Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pose for camera in their meeting in Sri Lanka on Thursday. (National Assembly Speaker’s Office)National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug met with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka on Thursday to discuss expanding economic cooperation and minerals investment.

Park made the two-day trip to Sri Lanka to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic relations.

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In the meeting with the Sri Lankan president, Park stressed how the economic structures of South Korea and Sri Lanka “complement” each other and has a lot of untapped possibilities for stronger economic cooperation.

“Our two countries have yet to fully tap our potential for bilateral cooperation. We need drastic measures to expand Korean companies’ investment in Sri Lanka and strengthen trade,” Park said.

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When the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1977, the trade volume hovered at only about $12 million. But in the past decades, the exchange between Korea and Sri Lanka rose by over 30 fold to $391 million in 2021, according to the speaker’s office.

Sri Lankan government expressed the wish for more Korean companies, particularly those in the IT and pharmaceutical sectors, to invest in its market, according to the press release from the speaker’s office.

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To encourage more Korean companies to advance into the Sri Lankan market, Park noted on the importance of making more success stories of Korean companies to encourage them to advance into the Sri Lankan market.

On that part, Park also requested to the president for Sri Lanka to issue a long-term visa valid for five years, as Korean employees currently have to renew the visa every one year.

To this, the president said it would review the visa expansion, and also on the plan on launching a special investment zone for Korean companies.

As Sri Lanka is rich in natural resources, such as graphite, and other rare minerals including rutile and zirconium, Rajapaksa called for Korea’s active investment.

“Sri Lanka is rich in mineral resources such as graphite. We look forward to active investment by Korea,” the president told Park.

Sri Lanka annually produces about 5,000 tons of graphite, which is used in making lithium batteries and vehicle parts. While graphite is acclaimed for high commercial value, the country has been experiencing difficulties in mining due to outdated facilities and lack of technology.

Park and Rajapaksa also agreed to speed up the discussion on the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty.

The Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty stipulates that the foreign-source income of a company should be taxed by either its native country or the country of the source of income, but not by both.

On this, the two countries have been discussing on the revision of the treaty, to specify the exchange of OECD-level information to prevent tax avoidance by multinational companies through income shifting, according to the speaker’s office.

The two sides also exchanged opinions and ideas on climate change and energy issues in the meeting.

“I sincerely hope that the Korea-Sri Lanka Climate Change Cooperation Treaty will be concluded and go into effect soon to contribute to fortifying our bilateral cooperation,” Park said.

President Rajapaksa responded, “Sri Lanka also takes the climate change issue very seriously. Sri Lanka has taken great interest in renewable energy sources. We await Korea’s investment to promote solar power and wind power generation in Sri Lanka.”

On the same day, Park met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Rajapaksa, who is the incumbent president’s elder brother and served as the president from 2005 to 2015.

Park and the prime minister agreed to expand human resources exchanges between the two countries.

On Friday, Park is set to meet with his parliamentary counterpart Mahinda Abeywardena.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)

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