Daily News | Shirajiv Sirimane | January 8, 2024

Kalum De Silva

Sri Lankan apparel exports to Australia are far below potential as only around USD 26 million (from a total of around USD 4 billion) are exported while there is huge potential to double it, said Sri Lanka Australia Chamber of Commerce (SLACC) Founder/President Kalum De Silva.

He said that the special tariff that is being imposed by the Australian government makes it ‘non-economical’ for local companies to export directly. “Hence some of the local apparel manufacturing giants have set factories in Fiji and are exporting from these countries for which the Australian government does not change special taxes.”

Due to high quality and as Sri Lanka is the 10th largest expat population in Australia, there is a demand for Sri Lankan appeals and ‘government to government’ discussion should be held to remove this tax. He also said that the Australian investor mindset is still not positive towards Sri Lanka and they still nurse negative sentiments from violence that erupted after the ‘Aragalaya’ “We see this when we try to promote Colombo Port City for Australian investors.”

“This area should be addressed as there are a lot of Australian companies looking to invest in Asia and corporations wanting to open regional offices in Asia.”

Asked if a FTA should be promoted between the two countries he said that this is not feasible as the trade between the two countries is still low. SLACC President also said in a bid to promote local SME products to the state last year they organized a visit of an 11-member high-profile Australian Trade Delegation to Sri Lanka which closely looked at organic food and local fabrics exports to the Australian market.

The Australian Trade Delegation also includes representatives, including notable figures from the Aboriginal Economic Development Group (AEDG), the Victoria State Government, and other prominent business entities and this was the first time that they are visiting an Asian country. He said that after the visit several local SME companies for the first time were able to export to Australia and this number is now increasing.

He said that they are inviting more companies to join SLACC so that similar export benefits could be shared. The trade between the two countries was around USD 1.5 billion in the pre-COVID era and now it has come down to around USD 1.3 billion and through initiatives of this nature it could be boosted.

He said that the Australians have made entry of diligent migrants and also of foreign students rather difficult now and local students should look at this aspect before applying.