Beijing, 05 June, (Asiantribune.com):
President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to elevate Sri Lanka and China relations to a “strategic cooperation partnership” at the summit talks between the two Presidents during President Rajapaksa’s State Visit to China from 27th – 30th May 2013.
During the warm and friendly discussion between the two leaders, President Rajapaksa reiterated Sri Lanka’s support for the One-China Policy and President Xi Jinping stated that China was strongly opposed to foreign countries interfering in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs.
Also during the discussion both leaders endorsed the early establishment of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries to further enhance mutually beneficial trade. Towards this end an MoU was signed for the immediate constitution of joint committees to initiate this process. With the advent of an FTA, it is expected that market access would be provided in China for Sri Lankan apparels, tea, rubber, gems & jewelry, light industry products etc.
Many Agreements in the fields of political, trade, economic & investment, fisheries, defence-related science & technology and youth were signed during the visit.
Chinese President Xi Jinping assured China’s continued support for future developmental projects in Sri Lanka. China pledged a grant assistance of RMB 200 million to be utilized for the building of an international convention centre in Kandy and an arts theatre in Anuradhapura.
Upgrading of the Colombo National Hospital and the Colombo North General Hospital at Ragama; the extension of the Southern Expressway from Matara to Kataragama and the extension of the Beliatta Kataragama railway track would also receive Chinese assistance. The construction of new water supply schemes for Attanagalla, Minuwangoda and Kurunegala will also commence shortly. The construction of the Colombo – Jaffna Expressway (through Kurunegala) was endorsed during the discussion with an estimated private investment of US$ 1500 million. A US$ 400 million road rehabilitation programme will also be undertaken to complete the remaining national road network including roads in the Jaffna Peninsula and connecting roads to the A9 highway. China also agreed to support Sri Lanka tourism authority to promote the country amongst Chinese tourists to increase arrivals from China to 100,000 by 2015.
Endorsing President Rajapaksa’s rural development and economic programme (Divinaguma) initiative, President Xi Jinping offered agriculture equipment and small machineries to Sri Lanka as a means for further capacity building.
In further strengthening bilateral cooperation in the field of education a new university township development for Moratuwa University and the development of the National School of Business Management at Homagama were finalized. Other areas discussed for collaboration were the fisheries sector and youth cooperation.
Prior to the official talks between the two Presidents, the Chinese President Xi Jinping held a welcome ceremony for President Rajapaksa at the Square outside the East Gate of the Great Hall of the People. Present at the ceremony were Mme. Peng Liyuan, wife of President Xi Jinping, Yan Junqi, Vice Chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Yang Jiechi, State Councilor, and Chen Xiaoguang, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. President Xi Jinping and Mme. Peng Liyuan also hosted a dinner banquet for President Rajapaksa, Mme. Rajapaksa and the delegation.
During the visit, President Rajapaksa also had a bilateral meeting with Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao. Vice President Li requested President Rajapaksa to encourage young parliamentarians of Sri Lanka to visit China on Familiarization Programmes on a regular basis with a view to ensuring the continuity of the warm and friendly relations between the two countries. Following the meeting the Chinese Vice President hosted President Rajapaksa, Mme Rajapaksa and the delegation to a luncheon banquet. During the talks with Prime Minister Li Keqiang, both sides spoke highly of the traditional friendship between the two countries and the Chinese Prime Minister reiterated China’s support for future developmental projects in Sri Lanka including the Hambantota Industrial Zone.
President Rajapaksa also addressed the distinguished gathering of prominent leaders from foreign governments, the services sector, the business world and academia at the opening ceremony of the Global Services Forum, “Beijing Summit”, organized by UNCTAD together with the Ministry of Commerce of China and the Beijing Municipal Government. The Forum, organized on the occasion of the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), was held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and was presided over by Prime Minister Li Keqiang of China. The Forum was a unique platform for promoting trade in services and fostering sustainable development.
During the visit President Rajapaksa also addressed the 2013 International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) Special Conference on “Promote Green Development & Build a Beautiful Asia Together” organized by the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the Shaanxi Provincial Committee of the CPC in Xian. The ICAPP is a forum of political parties from Asian and Oceanic countries and attracted representatives from about 50 political parties from Asian countries and many observers from Latin American and African political parties. While visiting Xian, President Rajapaksa, Mme. Rajapaksa and the delegation were hosted to a dinner banquet by the Governor of Shaanxi Province.
President Rajapaksa paid a visit to the Lingguang Temple in Beijing on the first day of his visit and paid homage to the precious tooth relic housed at the Temple and exchanged views on religious and cultural cooperation between the temple and Sri Lanka with the Chief Priest of the Temple. The Chief Priest of Lingguang Temple blessed President Rajapaksa and Mme Rajapaksa and for the peace and prosperity of Sri Lanka.
The President of EXIM Bank and the Chairman of China Development Bank paid courtesy calls on President Rajapaksa during the visit and pledged their support and cooperation of the two institutions towards the developmental process in Sri Lanka.
On the sidelines of the visit, a Sri Lanka – China Business Forum was held with the participation of top Sri Lankan and Chinese business entrepreneurs. External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris addressed the gathering and provided an overview of the investment and economic opportunities in Sri Lanka. Minister Peiris also addressed a press conference in Beijing with the participation of about 60 foreign and local journalists.
President Rajapaksa, accompanied by the Vice Mayor of Beijing also visited the Sri Lanka Pavillion, organized by the Embassy of Sri Lanka at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the Export Development Board of Sri Lanka.
At a brief ceremony held at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Beijing, President Rajapaksa received statues of the Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-Xian and the Chinese navigator Admiral Zheng – He donated by the President of the International Tour Management Association of China, Zhao Xian Zhang for the proposed Sri Lanka – China cultural museum in Galle.
First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa held warm and friendly talks with the First Lady of China Peng Liyuan and the President of the All China Women’s Federation Shen Yueyue who is also a Vice Chairperson of the National People’s Congress of China.
The two countries issued a Joint Communiqué at the end of the visit.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa was accompanied by First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa; Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris; Minister of Traditional Industries & Small Enterprise Development Douglas Devananda; Minister of Construction, Engineering Service, Housing & Common Amenities Wimal Weerawansa; Namal Rajapaksa M.P.; Monitoring M.P. of the Ministry of External Affairs Sajin de Vaas Gunawardena, A.H.M. Azwer M.P.; Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga; Chief of Staff to the President Gamini Senarath; Secretary to the Ministry of Finance & Planning P.B. Jayasundera; Secretary to the Ministry of Highways R.W.R. Premasiri; Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to China Ranjith Uyangoda and senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs of Sri Lanka.