Chinese and Sri Lankan Parliaments hold landmark meeting

Image Caption: Representatives of the Sri Lankan Parliament at the meeting

  • China assures further economic and pandemic-related support

The Chinese Government has assured its utmost support to help Sri Lanka overcome the economic and Covid-related challenges it is currently facing.

National People’s Congress of China (NPC) Standing Committee Chairman and Speaker of Parliament of China Li Zhanshu made this assurance to Speaker of Parliament of Sri Lanka Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena at the first diplomatic meeting held virtually on Monday (31) between a high-profile delegation of the Parliament of China and the Parliament of Sri Lanka.

Abeywardena sought the assistance of the Government of China in overcoming the economic challenges posed by the current Covid-19 situation, to which the NPC Standing Committee Chairman assured full support under the guidance of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Chinese delegation was thanked for the unwavering support Sri Lanka has received in the protection of its sovereignty, promotion of economic prosperity, and in the sphere of international diplomacy, as well as the support Sri Lanka has received in facing the Covid-19 pandemic. They were also assured that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa are committed towards leading the Government towards completing the Colombo Port City project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as well as ensuring the Hambantota Port becomes a global trade hub, while their assistance was sought to encourage investors in this regard.

The Chinese delegation also accepted an invitation to visit Sri Lanka once the Covid-19 situation is resolved, while inviting the Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister to accompany a delegation to China.

While noting that Sri Lanka had received a number of development projects due to the Chinese Government’s intervention, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa also requested the Chinese Speaker of Parliament to look into the transfer of $ 1.5 billion between the central banks of the two countries, which is currently on hold due to issues in the technicalities of the relevant agreement. He also requested the Chinese Government to facilitate the expansion of industries such as garments, tea, and gems to enter the Chinese market under the Sri Lanka-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The Government is ready to facilitate the establishment of a regional headquarters of the China Development Bank in the vicinity of the Colombo Port City, the Finance Minister added, while also seeking China’s support in further investment opportunities in Sri Lanka.

The NPC Chairman assured him that China would provide investment facilities for other investments including the Colombo Port City project.

The meeting was also attended by a number of high-profile Chinese officials, including NPC Standing Committee Vice Chairman and Chinese Parliament Deputy Speaker Wu Weihua and Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun. It was the first diplomatic discussion held by the Parliament of China since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also representing the Parliament of Sri Lanka were Deputy Speaker Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Leader of the House and Minister of Education Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of Youth and Sports Namal Rajapaksa, State Minister of Regional Co-operation Tharaka Balasuriya, Parliament Secretary General Dhammika Dasanayake, and Prof. Rohan Gunaratna.