China urges Sri Lanka secure further Chinese investment

Updated: 2015-03-13 20:11

By Pu Zhendong(

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China urged Sri Lanka to provide a "sound legal environment" to secure further Chinese investment while proposing to explore a trilateral cooperative mechanism among Beijing, New Dehli and Colombo.

"China would integrate its development strategy with its neighbors and jointly build a community of common development and shared interests," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera last week.

As the first Sri Lankan minister to visit China since the country ushered in a new administration in January, the top diplomat has vowed to improve convenience and create a better environment to woo more Chinese investors.

The two countries will stay committed to enhancing self-development capability by co-constructing the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and have identified "three major pillars" of bilateral relations: negotiation over a free trade agreement, infrastructure improvement and industrial cooperation.

"The FTA will provide preferential access for Sri Lankan products to the vast Chinese market and thereby progress towards a more balanced and equitable bilateral trade," Samaraweera said.

The envoy's visit sought to dispel "clouds of uncertainty" over the two neighbors since the new Sri Lankan government has threatened to cancel a China-funded Colombo port city project, a deal signed in September during Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the South Asian country.

The $1.5-billion arrangement, which involved transferring 108 hectares of land next to the main commercial port of Colombo to China Communications Construction Co Ltd for luxury real estate development, was brought under re-examination last month in terms of cost appraisals and environmental impacts.

Led by President Maithripala Sirisena, the new Sri Lankan government has set a 100-day deadline to complete constitutional reforms and probe corruption in large-scale projects such as the Colombo port city.

"The investigation does not overshadow the generally close China-Sri Lanka economic ties, even in the context of power transition to a more neutral leadership," said Wang Weihua, a researcher on South Asian studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.

"After many years of conflicts, there is vast need for development in Sri Lanka, and China is one of the few countries that can inject capital and personnel to tap into the opportunities," Wang said.

Describing the re-examination "a good thing" for foreign, including Chinese, investors, Samaraweera said the new administration wants to "create a rule-based investor climate because some of the investments that were decided upon by the previous government were not totally given on merit".

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