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Sri Lanka: Be passionate about your exports, says ITC Geneva

Monday, September 08, 2014 > 08:34:49
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(News LK)

Exports, being the lifeline of Sri Lankan economy, is a national priority. The urgency of exports accelerating strategy is such that it could kick-start even before its full design cycle is over. Meanwhile, Brand Sri Lanka packs hidden potentials that could be leveraged for national export growth. “At the end of the day the buck lands at somebody’s desk. Who is ultimately responsible? We can start implementing the export acceleration strategy while it is being designed and before it’s totally finalised. We may not need to wait until it is fully endorsed” voiced a determined Anton Said,Chief of Export Strategy, ITC) r4ecently in Colombo. 

ITC Chief Anton Said was addressing the launch of EDB’s National Export Strategising initiative in Colombo. The Export Development Board (EDB) -the national trade promotion organization specially vested with the responsibility for promotion and development of exports- is embarking on formulating the 2015-2020 National Export Strategy (NES) to achieve the $20 B export target by 2020 as set out in ‘Mahinda Chintana’. The formulation of the 2015-2020 NES is carried out with technical assistance from International Trade Centre (ITC) Geneva and in consultation with the public and private sector stakeholders. NES formulation is also a statutory requirement under the Export Development Act No 40 of 1979. Geneva’s ITC is a subsidiary of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) providing trade-related specialised technical assistance to exports of various economies-specially transition economies. ITC is no stranger to Sri Lanka; in 2010, ITC implemented a business survey in Sri Lanka in collaboration with Lanka Market Research Bureau Limited (LMRB).

Also taking part in the National Export Strategy formulation session  at EDB were representatives from the export community, various Chambers, EDB officials, and top government officials from many line agencies connected to exports.

Addressing the session Rishad Bathiudeen (Minister of Industry and Commerce) said: “This export strategy effort is carried out with valuable technical assistance from ITC and in consultation with the public and private sector stakeholders. As global markets are increasingly separating to groups of mature markets and emerging markets as well as consumer markets become more demanding we need to change our export strategies as well. In fact I have been given to understand that in International Trade Centre’s global assessment on Trade Promotional Organisations the ITC, recently indicated our EDB to be in par with some of the export agencies of highly developed economies. In that, ITC revealed that EDB is now in a ITC benchmark for the first time. This is encouraging news in our efforts to achieve $20 Bn exports by 2020 under the committed vision of  President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Thanks to our committed exporters and the Vision of  the President today, we are able to see a five year high in first half exports for 2014 at $ 5.4 Bn. This is a huge increase of 45.9% from year 2010’s first half exports of $ 3.7 Bn. There is no doubt that both ‘country branding’ and ‘export strategy’ always go hand in hand. To this end also there is good news for Sri Lanka exports.  It is that Sri Lanka in its first effort entered at 67th rank in the Country Brand Index of “Future Brands”. Out of 118 countries surveyed Sri Lanka emerged at 67. Immediately above us is China at rank 66 while Vietnam ranked below us at 69 and Poland at 75. Despite the export successes of these countries Sri Lanka still has a stronger ranking. What this shows is Sri Lanka’s hidden market potential and it is time we leverage it for our export development.  For us to leverage these international developments to our export growth we need to take viable steps. What is also should be stressed is that today’s strategy effort enables our exports sector to draw in private and public sector partnership. This is fundamental in our approach to national export strategy development, implementation and also the achievement of $ 20 Bn by 2020. Today’s National Export Strategy session is an important step in accelerating exports, and not just a mere fulfilment of the requirements stipulated in the Export Development Act No. 40 of 1979.” 

Anton Said (Chief of Export Strategy, ITC), addressing the session said: “In 10 years the world has changed. Export acceleration strategy is the process and the realism need to be apparent in the final product. ITC’s mission is to enable developing economies and transition economies’ export success in the global economy. In last 12 years we developed over 50 strategies in 40 countries, and therefore we have lots of experiences in this business. National export document can provide a direction and a blueprint which if followed can lead to success. ITC’s approach to national strategy design and implementation is based on two fundamental objectives-to enhance international competiveness of enterprises and export orientation. Export enterprises do not exist in a vacuum. Export competitiveness is defined as cross cutting issues and constraints affecting multiple sectors-for example quality. The growth momentum needs to be acceptable to all players winning their confidence-including development partners. And all institutions and Ministries that define export success are part of this initiative. Prioritisation is an important challenge. We need to ensure that the established systems, structures, mechanisms of the country are effective-they need to be functional at policy level as well as operational level so that export momentum is sustained and accelerated. This initiative has to work through existing organisations and many Lankan initiatives such as hub strategy and “Unstoppable Sri Lanka” etc. Therefore our point of departure is using existing national strategies and to build on them. The success of exports depends on aggregate institutional network. At the end of the day the buck lands at somebody’s desk. Who is ultimately responsible? We can start implementing the export acceleration strategy while it is being designed and before it’s totally finalised. We may not need to wait until it is fully endorsed since we may know what the targets are, parties are and priorities are. After this we can move on to a detailed design. At that stage the principle sectors identified by the strategy will have their own detailed sub strategies in relevant areas such as trade financing, branding, quality management, trade promotion, packaging etc.  The Consolidated National Export Strategy document will have an implementation management framework with measurements to track progress. ITC will be partner in this acceleration effort, help you to make the transition, and we are as available as much you need us. This is both a top down and bottom up approach. We want you to be passionate about your export strategy. Having a strategy is a huge milestone but not the end.”

Bandula Egodage (Chairman & CEO of EDB) addressing the event said: “Our exports are growing rapidly thanks to you, our exporters. Export revenues are at 20% of our GDP and we are confident that we can achieve the $20 Bn goal by 2020. This is due to the clear framework of Mahinda Chinthana, the visionary leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the strategic economic controls of P.B.Jayasundara, the well supported economic development of Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and the committed leadership and guidance of Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Lakshman Wasantha Perera and Anura Siriwardene our Ministry Secretary. The reason we need an export strategy is that with limited resources, we may have to prioritise to further develop and accelerate it. Also it’s a statutory requirement and we need to have a microscopic view. We are fortunate to have ITC supporting us.”(KH)


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