First high-powered Chinese delegation to Sri Lanka inks SME pacts, establishes many B2Bs
Originally published in the Daily Financial Times on Wednesday, 11 December 2019

(L-R) Mianyang Association of Commerce Secretary General Yuan Wenyan, COSMI founding member Hui Dias Bandaranayake, Sri Lanka’s International Cooperation State Minister Susil Premajayantha, who witnessed the signing of the two agreements, and Mianyang Enterprise Union for Import and Export Chairman John Luo (far right) look on as Mianyang Association of Commerce Chairman Zhang Zhongcheng and COSMI Founder President Nawaz Rajabdeen exchange the signed agreements at Hilton Colombo on 9 December

  • ‘Govt. guarantees security of your businesses here’ - Minister Premajayantha
  • ‘We are from most dynamic hub of China’s OBOR’ - Chairman Zhongcheng
  • Sri Lanka-China total trade up nearly five-fold in decade
The first high-powered Chinese business delegation to arrive in Sri Lanka under the new Government is from the most technologically advanced and dynamic hub of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project.

Facilitated by Sri Lanka’s Confederation of Micro, Small and Medium Industries (COSMI), the high-powered Chinese team promptly moved on 9 December for closer B2B and technological ties with leading Sri Lankan industrialists and SMEs by inking two landmark Cooperation Agreements with COSMI.

“Mianyan is an important pivot city on the junction of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project. It is the most dynamic city on the China OBOR belt. Mianyan is the only science and technological city approved by the Chinese Government. It is also one of eight Chinese national Layout Areas for the systematic promotion of comprehensive innovation and a leading electronic and intelligent manufacturing hub with multiple research and tech centres, and is the second-largest economy in Sichuan Province,” stated the Chairman of China’s Sichuan Province’s Mianyang Association of Commerce (MAC), Zhang Zhongcheng, on 9 December.

Speaking at the pioneering MoU signing and B2B event between the association and Sri Lanka’s COSMI at Hilton Colombo, Chairman Zhongcheng, the leader of the 15-member Mianyang business and tech delegation to Sri Lanka, stressed: “We shall exchange cooperative information and intentions, and also hold one-to-one meetings with SMEs and leading industry representatives of Sri Lanka.”

Joining Chairman Zhongcheng in Colombo to ink MoUs and lead business negotiations were Mianyang Enterprise Union for Import and Export Chairman John Luo and Mianyang Association of Commerce Secretary General Yuan Wenyan, Sri Lanka’s International Cooperation State Minister Susil Premajayantha, who witnessed the signing of the two agreements, COSMI Founder President Nawaz Rajabdeen, its Governing Council Chairman Macky Hashim and founding member Hui Dias Bandaranayake. A Cooperation Framework Agreement between COSMI and China Mianyang Enterprise Union for Import and Export and a Strategic Cooperation Agreement between COSMI and Sichuan Yiyang Xuanyu Trading Ltd. were inked at this event.

“We are committed to improving bilateral and trade relations with friendly countries,” said Minister Premajayantha.

“In recent years China improved a lot in emerging technologies such as nanotech and biotech. If you start here, Sri Lanka gets that advanced technical knowhow. The Government, especially the President, guarantees the security of the people and your businesses - we assure you that security not only for visiting persons but even for your businesses,” he added.

Over the years, China-Sri Lanka relations have grown in many ways, including bilateral trade. In 2017, China was the second largest supplier of Sri Lanka’s imports, although a year earlier in 2016, China briefly rose to become the topmost supplier to Sri Lanka for the first time. Total bilateral trade between both countries in 2017 stood at $ 4.6 billion, a 4.7-fold growth from a decade back at $ 965 million (in 2007). In the same period, Sri Lanka’s exports to China rose 11-fold to total $ 415 million (in 2017).

For its part, COSMI believes that the Asia Pacific region can play an important role in providing new technology and machinery to improve quality and productivity of Sri Lankan SMEs. COSMI President Rajabdeen said that he believed there were two million SMEs and micro enterprises in Sri Lanka.

“COSMI works for the revival of the industrial sector in Sri Lanka which now faces various setbacks, including a lack of new tech and international links. This is why we bring international businesses here and link them to our local SMEs for investment and cooperation. COSMI is now planning an industrial machinery expo to be held in Sri Lanka next year,” he stated.

On 9 December, the visiting Chinese businesses took part in many one-to-one B2B ‘COSMI matchmaking sessions’ with eager Lankan firms. COSMI has been founded recently by a group of Sri Lankan industry experts and business chamber veterans, and aims to become the voice for Sri Lanka’s Industrial Small and Medium Enterprises (ISMEs).