Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vietnamese, Sri Lankan foreign ministers meet on bilateral ties

HANOI, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh met with his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris for talks over bilateral relations in capital Hanoi on Tuesday during his four-day visit to Vietnam.
During the meeting, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh spoke highly of Peiris's visit to Vietnam, adding that his visit plays an important role in further expanding the Vietnam-Sri Lanka multifaceted traditional friendship relations.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, for his part, expressed his impression on achievements Vietnam has gained during the innovation and economic development process.
The two ministers expressed delight at the positive development of the bilateral relations during the past years and agreed to further cooperation in fields of politic, defense and security, economic, trade and investment, oil, gas, and education.
The two sides also agreed to study on signing the Vietnam-Sri Lanka Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) in the future.
In 2011, the Vietnam-Sri Lanka bilateral trade turnover reached 100 million U.S. dollars and is expected to hit one billion U.S. dollars by 2015.

NDB Investment Bank makes history at Euromoney Awards for Excellence 2012

Published : 1:53 am  July 18, 2012  |  
NDB Investment Bank Limited (NDBIB) was adjudged the ‘Best Investment Bank in Sri Lanka’ recently at the Awards for Excellence 2012 by Euromoney, the world’s premier financial markets magazine.
This is a historical achievement for NDBIB as well as the country since it is the first time Euromoney has ever recognised an investment bank in Sri Lanka, for any award. It is also the first time an investment bank in the country has received an international accolade for excellence.
NDB Investment Banking Cluster CEO Vajira Kulatilaka commenting on the award stated: “It is indeed a proud moment for us at NDBIB to receive this prestigious award for investment banking and international recognition for our pioneering efforts in developing the capital market in Sri Lanka. With this achievement, NDBIB has been able to take the local investment banking industry to global standards. It is the dream of any investment bank to receive a Euromoney award, and we are proud to have achieved it and be associated with global investment banking giants in the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Citibank and HSBC on the same platform.”
NDBIB, having spearheaded the investment banking industry in the country since its inception, was recognised by Euromoney in 2012 as the acknowledged leader in Sri Lanka for debt and equity products and corporate advisory assignments.
During 2011, NDBIB raised over Rs. 38 billion in both debt and equity products for its clients from varied sectors of the economy, the highest quantum of funds raised from the capital markets in the country by an investment bank, which included two record-breaking IPOs on the Colombo Bourse.
Last year, NDBIB also strengthened its international reach through a strategic alliance with DBS Bank, Singapore, one of Asia’s largest banks, in order to access vibrant foreign capital markets for the benefit of its clients across a broad range of areas including, M&A, syndicated loans, project finance and equity placements.
The award for ‘Best Investment Bank in Sri Lanka’ was presented to Kulatilaka by Euromoney Magazine Editor Clive Horwood and the magazine’s Asia Editor Anuj Gangahar at the Euromoney Awards for Excellence 2012 – Asia ceremony, a gala event hosted by Euromoney held on 12 July at The Conrad in Hong Kong. The ceremony was attended by distinctive guests including top executives of global banks and financial powerhouses operating in the Asian Region.
Commenting on the award, NDBIB CEO Darshan Perera stated: “We are proud and honoured to have been selected and recognised as the ‘Best Investment Bank in Sri Lanka’ by Euromoney, and we look forward to continuing our quest for innovation, as we have done in the past through pioneering products such as structured debt and book building, in order to provide unique tailor made solutions to our valued clients.”
Subsequent to a recent restructuring within the NDB group, NDBIB is now positioned as the local investment banking arm of NDB Capital Holdings PLC (formerly known as Capital Development and Investment Company PLC), the leader in providing a wide gamut of innovative capital market solutions in the areas of investment banking, stock brokering and wealth management in Sri Lanka as well as in Bangladesh.
Euromoney Magazine has been the voice of international capital markets for over 40 years, offering unique coverage on the banking sector and global equity, bond and foreign exchange markets. Its annual Awards for Excellence program has been running for 22 years and forms a benchmark for financial institutions featuring high-quality products and services across all areas of commercial and investment banking.
The selection criteria of Best Investment Bank Awards are based on both quantitative and qualitative factors over the preceding 12-month period. Euromoney’s awards for excellence cover more than 20 global product categories and best-in class awards by region and country.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Turning boats back works: Sri Lankan envoy

July 16, 2012 - 10:39AM  | AAP
Sri Lanka's high commissioner to Australia says turning boats back to his country will deter asylum seekers from making the journey to Australia.
Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe says asylum seekers will be forced to find other ways of getting to Australia if their boats are prevented from leaving Sri Lankan waters.
"Turning the boats around will deter people," he told ABC Radio on Monday.
"They know that they can't leave Sri Lankan soil."
Admiral Samarasinghe's comments came after a boat carrying 109 suspected asylum seekers en route to Australia was intercepted by the Sri Lankan navy off the island's eastern coast on Saturday.
The boat was escorted to the port of Trincomalee, 260 kilometres northeast of Colombo, and the passengers handed to local police.
While most asylum seeker boats originate in Indonesia, there has been a recent spike in attempted crossings from Sri Lanka.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen dismissed suggestions that Australia follow Sri Lanka's lead and turn back asylum seeker boats.
"It's very different to turn a boat back or disrupt a boat in Sri Lankan waters, by Sri Lankan authorities," he told ABC Radio.
"If you turn a boat back either in Australian waters or in international waters, under international law they must be brought to the nearest port of call by the rescuing authority."
That could entice asylum seekers to sink their boats to prompt a response from Australia's maritime rescue body.
"That is not the case in Sri Lanka ... just as it's not the case with any other disruption activities by a home country," Mr Bowen said.
Admiral Samarasinghe said Sri Lankan authorities never used force when turning asylum seeker boats around.
"When we stop (them) they have no other option than turn around with us," he said.
"They can't keep on going."
Those turned back to Sri Lanka will be forced to look for legitimate ways of travelling to Australia.
"There is no other way (if) they are not well educated or they don't have money," he said.
"So they will want to maybe do a course of training, request for education..."
© 2012 AAP               

Sri Lanka plays balancing act between U.S. and Iran

Sri Lanka plays balancing act between U.S. and Iran
Posted at 02:18 PM ET, 07/13/2012

The Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka might seem an unlikely cockpit for a game of global power politics, but that is exactly what it has become.
Both India and the United States have tried to encourage Sri Lanka to respect human rights and promote post-war reconciliation three years after the end of a long-running civil war, but both countries are wary of pushing too hard.
Their greatest fear is that Sri Lanka will slide inexorably down the path followed by nearby Burma over the past five decades, of increasing isolation from the West and into the arms of their enemies and rivals.
India has watched with dismay as China’s influence has steadily grown on the island through a series of arms sales and major infrastructure investments in recent years.
The United States will have noted too how President Mahinda Rajapaksa traveled to Cuba last week to reaffirm his firm bonds with the government of Raul Castro.
A few days later, Rajapaksa was embracing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and complaining together about “arrogant” and “hegemonistic powers” who are trying to bully independent, sovereign nations.
“Sanctions and resolutions will not affect the nations’ desire to resist,” they defiantly declared.
There is no doubt that Colombo’s nose was put out of joint in March when the United States sponsored a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council meant to gently encourage Sri Lanka down the path of openness, accountability and reconciliation.
Protests were organized almost every day outside the U.S. Embassy in Colombo during the U.N. hearings.
But behind the rhetoric, U.S. officials say there are still reasons for hope. Sri Lanka, they say, may be resistant to America’s lecturing over human rights, but on the issue of Iranian sanctions at least, it did engage.
Sri Lanka has traditionally depended on Iran for almost all of its oil imports, but in the face of U.S. pressure, did reduce its imports from the Islamic Republic significantly this year. That allowed Sri Lankans to obtain a waiver last month from American financial sanctions.

Sri Lanka suggests single clearance document for regional trade

14 Jul, 2012 10:45:45

July 14, 2012 (LBO) - A single document that harmonises different regulations of South Asian countries for clearing cargo would help boost regional trade, Sri Lanka's external affairs minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris said.
Trade among countries of the South Asian region was far below its potential and simplified procedures were needed to increase volumes, he told a forum on trade facilitation in Colombo Friday.
"Regretfully, volumes of trade within the south Asian region are far, far below what it should be," Peiris said.
Trade volume within the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) region was only five percent of their total trade compared with 55 percent within the European Union and 22 percent in the South East Asian (Asean) regional economic bloc.
Critics say economic nationalism had robbed the freedoms of the citizens to trade with one another, especially after gaining self determination from British rule allowing producers to prey on consumer with the backing of the state.
Post independent South Asian rulers have imposed trade restrictions on citizens to give large profits to powerful rent seeking nationalist businesses that were perhaps not even seen under the Dutch East India Company.
In Sri Lanka in particular, which was among the first countries to restore trade freedoms to people, protectionist businesses had begun to rob citizens' freedoms again.
Meanwhile Pieris said arguments that it was not possible to increase intra-regional trade since south Asian countries export the same products were not entirely valid.
He pointed to Indian vehicle exports to Sri Lanka and the island's plans to import pharmaceuticals from Bangladesh.
"Globally, within each region very strong steps are being taken to promote intra-regional trade," Peiris said.
He noted how Sri Lanka lost its market for tea in Egypt after African countries fixed trade agreements to promote intra-regional trade.
"Although we had a substantial hold on tea markets in some African countries such as Egypt, today these African countries have come together and concluded agreements to promote trade within the African region.
"It had a negative impact on tea exports from Sri Lanka into markets we had in various parts of Africa."
He also noted that 70 percent of Indo-Lanka trade is taking place outside the free trade agreement between the two countries.
"You can have free trade agreements but the impediments we have to deal with today are largely non-tariff barriers," Peiris told the forum organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka, the SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
"When you try to export there are numerous problems. We need to simplify trade procedures."
Peiris said some of the problems were a lack of uniformity in banking and problems in transportation, and cargo clearance at national borders.
"The cumulative impact of all these impediments is substantial and constitutes today the major disincentive to increasing trade volumes within the SAARC region," Peiris said.
"We need to give thought to a single clearance certificate."
SAARC member countries need to ensure greater harmonisation of trade procedures and automation of cargo clearance such as using electronic data transmission.
"This can't be done only by formal talks within governments and dealing with only tariffs because non-tariff barriers are pretty inhibitive," Peiris said, adding that SAARC was not only a political entity but that its economic dimension was now critical.
Professional bodies have established a whole network of contacts within the SAARC region and this was one of most significant achievements of the regional grouping up to now.
"Harmonisation of standards, such as among accountants, will contribute to solving the problem."
Peiris noted how in the EU trade led to European countries coming together much closer.
"Trade led to political and monetary union because trade is relatively non-controversial. When you have problems among countries, you can start with areas where there no problems.
"Then you find it easier to deal with seemingly intractable problems as we see from Europe's experience."