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UAE Is Sri Lanka’s Largest Trading Partner In ME; 6th Largest Source Of FDI: Foreign Secretary

The United Arab Emirates is the sixth largest source of the Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, inflows to Sri Lanka, and its largest trading partner in the Middle East with bilateral trade representing more than half of the country’s total trade with the region, a top Sri Lankan official told the Emirates News Agency, WAM.

There was a quantum leap in bilateral trade exchanges between Sri Lanka and the UAE, with 62.92 percent increase during the past three years, Ravinatha P Aryasinha, Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary, said in an exclusive interview during his official visit to Abu Dhabi.

The FDI inflows from the UAE to Sri Lanka during 2015-2018 were to the tune of US$641million, he revealed.

During 2015-2017, Sri Lanka received US$593 million in FDI from the UAE, which represented 6.1 percent of the total FDI inflows to the country during that period, he said.

"In 2018 alone, we had FDI worth US$48 million from the UAE," Aryasinha revealed.

The bilateral trade in 2016 was $1.34 billion, which jumped to US$2.13 billion in 2018, witnessing a 62.92 percent increase, he said.

Of the US$2.13 trade in 2018, total exports from Sri Lanka to the UAE were to the tune of $US290 million and total imports from the UAE to Sri Lanka were valued at US$1.84 billion, the official said.

Tea [worth US$48 million], coffee, apparels, and tobacco were the major exports from Sri Lanka, whereas petroleum and related products were major imports from the UAE, he explained.

As most of Sri Lanka’s oil imports are from the Arabian Gulf countries, including the UAE, the region has a crucial role in the country’s energy security, Aryasinha said.

Sri Lanka’s trade with the UAE in 2018 represented 56.5 percent of the country’s total trade with the Middle East, making the UAE its largest trading partner in the region, the official revealed.

The trade between Sri Lanka and the Middle East [14 countries, including the UAE] accounted for $US3.77 billion in 2018, of which total exports from Sri Lanka to the Middle East amounted to US$1.16 billion and total imports from the Middle East were pegged at $US2.61 billion, Aryasinha explained.

About 71,636 tourists from the Middle East visited Sri Lanka in 2018 and 5,785 of them were from the UAE, he said.

Sri Lanka also received US$3.59 billion worth foreign remittances in 2018 from over one million Sri Lankans working in the Middle East, which represented 52.2 percent of the total remittances the country received during the same period, Arysinha said.

These were from from Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Palastine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, UAE, and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is hosting the largest number of Sri Lankans in the region – more than 400,000.

Although Sri Lankans have been travelling to the Middle East and Southeast Asia for many years for work, the number of people going to new destinations has been increased in recent years. "Many people are now going to South Korea, Italy, Germany and Cyprus and the Caribbean," he revealed.

The remittances from the diaspora heavily support the Sri Lankan economy. The Government has introduced insurance scheme and pension fund for Sri Lankans living abroad to ensure their welfare, Aryasinha concluded.

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