Sri Lanka offers immense opportunities to Canadian businesses
at Radisson Hotel Toronto East. It was well attended and guests included representatives from all three levels of government (Federal, Provincial, Municipal), Canadian Banks, South Asian Bilateral Business Councils, private sector businessmen and members of the Council. Titled Sri Lanka, Wonder of Asia – the evening started with a reception and networking session followed by the business segment that included presentations – by Upali Obeyesekere – President, Canada-Sri Lanka Business Council; Consul General for Sri Lanka in Toronto Mohan De Alwis and former Foreign Affairs Senior Trade Commissioner and now private sector consultant Alan J. Ballak.
The three presentations were quite informative and engaging. Focus was primarily on tourism, import/export opportunities, infrastructure and industrial growth in Sri Lanka and Canada’s strengths in doing business internationally. CSLBC President Upali Obeyesekere articulated the steady growth in imports from Sri Lanka to Canada. In a descriptive presentation, Obeyesekere showed growth figures for the last five years and also the growth for the first eight months (Jan. – August) in 2014, compared to the same period in 2013. He cited import figures in 2014 coming in at US$152 million compared to $128 million in 2013 for the same period – an increase of US$24 million which he remarked as very encouraging. He attributed the restoration of peace in the country in 2009 as one of the main reasons and commended the hard work of the trade section of the Consulate General’s Office in Toronto as the other reason. He made special mention of Deputy Consul General Asoka Godawita and his predecessor H.M.B. Herath. “These two officers are directly or indirectly responsible for the recent growth figures as they were responsible for commercial activity and economic relations at the Toronto Consulate of Sri Lanka. Hard work always pays off in the long run,” he remarked.
Consul General for Sri Lanka in Toronto Mohan De Alwis addressed the diverse business gathering and re-inforced the fact that Sri Lanka is fast moving from a developing nation to the next level of ranking by the United Nations. Tourism figures have skyrocketed with tourists from Europe, Asia and the Middle East visiting Sri Lanka in numbers. The recently built Southern Port and second airport in Hambantota are a boon to the island nation, he said. The highest ranking Sri Lankan national in Toronto emphasized that Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s vision is taking the country to its full potential. The City of Colombo has been totally revitalized and its image is a tourist attraction. There are many huge opportunities for Canada in Sri Lanka, he said. The audience were quite impressed with the eloquence of Sri Lanka’s new Consul General and his overall knowledge of his country’s economic, tourism and industrial growth.
Guest Speaker Alan J. Ballak focused on Canada’s strengths in the international arena and in a powerful PowerPoint presentation had the captive audience fully engaged. His presentation articulated the different Federal Government Agencies involved in helping companies take a project from conception to execution. As a former Senior Trade Commissioner for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade, Mr. Ballak has over 15 years experience in the area of private and public partnerships in major projects. He fielded many questions from the audience.
President, Canada-Pakistan Business Council Samir Dossal who was part of the audience suggested that there should a joint force of South Asian bilateral business councils to promote a high-level trade mission by the federal or provincial leader to Sri Lanka, India, Turkey and Pakistan and other countries in the region. The Canada-Sri Lanka Business Council was formed in 1990, and reaches its 25th anniversary milestone in 2015.