News & Activities : The Official Visit of His Excellency Mr. Somkid Jatusripitak, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, to Sri Lanka on 8-11 March 2016 News & Activities

News & Activities : The Official Visit of His Excellency Mr. Somkid Jatusripitak, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, to Sri Lanka on 8-11 March 2016

The official visit to Sri Lanka of H.E. Mr. Somkid Jatusripitak, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, on 8-11 March 2016 marked a forward step in the new era of Thailand-Sri Lanka relations. As a follow-up to the official visit to Thailand on 1-4 November 2015 of H.E. Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka, this visit successfully brought about several concrete outcomes with an emphasis on mutual economic benefits. Among the 129 Thai delegates, 63 of which from the private sector also involved in this journey to promote and enhance the business relations between Thailand and Sri Lanka.

On 10 March 2016, the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand paid courtesy calls on H.E. President Sirisena and H.E. Mr. Rani Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Prior to the courtesy call, President Sirisena presented the Buddha relic to H.E. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, at the request of H.E. General Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, and reiterated his good impression and the success of his official trip to Thailand on 1-4 November 2015, which greatly broadened and deepened the cordial relationship of the two countries.

At the bilateral meeting between the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand and Honourable Mangala Samaraweera, Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, both sides shared the same view that the long-standing and cordial relations between the two countries have been entrenched on the strong common faith in Buddhism. In addition, the Thais and Sri Lankans share similar personality which helps create a conducive environment for fostering the bilateral relations in all aspects. The meeting was followed by the signing of three documents, which aim to enhance collaboration in the fields of technical cooperation, SMEs, and tourism between the two countries. The said documents are (1) the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Thailand and Sri Lanka on Technical Cooperation, (2) the Letter of Intent (LOI) between the Department of Industrial Promotion of the Ministry of Industry of Thailand, and the Industrial Development Board of Sri Lanka, and (3) the Joint Action Program on Tourism for the period 2016-2018.

The Economic Ministers’ Meeting, co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid and Honourable Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade of Sri Lanka, was also held on 10 March 2016 with the presence of relevant economic Ministers and high-ranking officials of Thailand and Sri Lanka. The two sides had fruitful discussions and exchanged views on promoting trade and investment in the areas of agriculture, fisheries, tourism, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, jewelry, and consumer products.  In particular, the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand has set the bilateral trade target of 1.5 billion US dollars within the next five years, and further made four proposals to enhance bilateral trade and investment, which include empowering Sri Lankan agricultural industry; creating more high-value added industrial products of Sri Lanka; developing tourism industry through infrastructure development and disseminating information on Sri Lankan tourism in Thailand; as well as developing human resource in Sri Lanka’s hospitality industry.  Moreover, the Thai side also proposed that Thailand could serve as a gateway for Sri Lanka to access the ASEAN market with more than 600 million people, while Sri Lanka could also be a gateway for Thailand to access the markets in the South Asia region. In relation to this, the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand proposed that Thailand and Sri Lanka should conduct the feasibility study on a Free Trade Agreement.

One of the highlights of the visit was the Exclusive Session between the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand and leading Sri Lankan and Thai businessmen. There were 15 Thai leading companies and 14 Sri Lankan leading companies attended the session. The participants shared the same view that this session provided a good opportunity for the top businessmen to discuss and make connections for business, for instance, the business connections between CP Group and John Keells Foods; Mitr Phol Sugar Group and John Keells Foods; and Shaiyo Triple A and Frostaire, etc. The parallel economic activity was a business matching. There were more than 120 Thai and Sri Lankan businessmen participated in this event which could further connect the private sector of the two countries and intensify trade and investment activities between Thailand and Sri Lanka.

The three-day visit ended with the religious programmes. The Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand visited several world-renowned Buddhist places in Kandy and Anuradhapura. The programmes included the visits to Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara in Colombo, Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy and various Buddhist sites in Anuradhapura – a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition, the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand also paid homage to the late Most Venerable Galagama Sri Aththadassi Thera, who had served as the 21st Chief Prelate (Mahanayaka) of the Asgiriya Chapter of Siam Nigaya, and passed away on 9 March 2016.

This official visit of the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand is, once again, a success story of Sri Lanka-Thailand relations, which marks another important step of the new journey in the bilateral relations. The two sides have an opportunity not only to further steer forward the mutual trade and investment cooperation but also to enhance and deepen their religious relationship based on the strong foundation of Buddhism.

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