Sept 14 (AsiaNews) Colombo – The Sri Lanka-Italy Business Council (SLIBC) recently held its 19th annual general meeting in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.
In his address, Italy’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, Paolo Andrea Bartorelli said that bilateral trade between the two countries has never been so good.
Italy’s chief diplomat in the island nation noted that the local economy was growing rapidly and that foreign investment, including from Italy, had increased significantly, creating new business opportunities.
Mr Bartorelli said that the Italian Embassy is fully behind cooperation and stronger bilateral relations. At the same time, he noted that “A large number of Sri Lankans were living in Italy and this was a fine testimony to strengthen the relationship between the two nations”.
Sri Lankans constitute the 12th largest non-EU community in Italy. According to the annual report on migration by the Italian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, Sri Lankans in Italy numbered 109,968, 54 per cent of them men.
Most lived in the regions of Lombardy (30.7 per cent), Campania (14.4 per cent) and Veneto (12.2 per cent), working mostly in various services to the public (54.8 per cent) as well as hotels and restaurants (14.7 per cent).
According to Bartorelli, the growing flow of tourists between the two countries is also a sign of the close relationship between them. The number of Italians visiting Sri Lanka rose from 24,293 in 2016 to 31,428 in 2017.
In that same period, exports increased by 29.5 per cent, while imports grew by 13.5 per cent. In 2017 bilateral trade was positive: 34,275 million rupees (US$ 280,000).
Former SLIBC president Rajah Abeysinghe highlighted the growing trade but admitted that in 2017 investor and consumer confidence declined because of poor weather conditions.
Still, looking at the bright side, the SLIBC’s current president, Sonali Liyanamanna, said, “We have many investment opportunities in Europe and have to identify the avenues of renewable energy, E-commerce, medical tourism, research and development, and Technology.”