Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa draws country closer to China after summit

By Waruna Karunatilake COLOMBO (Reuters) - China and Sri Lanka plan to restart discussions on a free trade agreement, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Friday, following a high-level meeting between the two countries.

Reuters October 10, 2020 00:11:47 IST
Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa draws country closer to China after summit

Sri Lankas Rajapaksa draws country closer to China after summit

By Waruna Karunatilake

COLOMBO (Reuters) - China and Sri Lanka plan to restart discussions on a free trade agreement, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Friday, following a high-level meeting between the two countries.

Seen as close to Beijing, Rajapaksa has appointed several members of his family to top cabinet positions since his party won a commanding majority in August's parliamentary elections - including his brother Mahinda, who previously also served as president.

Negotiations on a free trade agreement were last held in 2017.

China has been making increasing inroads into South Asia with its Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at financing critical infrastructure in dozens of countries across the world.

In 2017, Sri Lanka signed over control of a Chinese-financed port and land around it to Beijing after incurring heavy losses, to the alarm of the United States and regional power India.

On Friday, Rajapaksa rejected accusations that China wanted to trap Sri Lanka into mounting debt with the port deal.

"Many geo-political analysis interprets this project as a 'debt trap' set up by China to gain control over Sri Lankan affairs," Rajapaksa told the Chinese delegation, led by Yang Jiechi, China's top diplomat.

"I want to prove that it is not the case and that this large-scale project will help improve the living standards of the people," he added.

The countries also agreed to deepen ties in the agriculture, education, tourism, water supply and healthcare sectors, according to a summary of the meeting released by Rajapaksa's office.

The Chinese visit comes as Sri Lanka faces mounting worries over the state of its finances, with rating agencies warning that a coronavirus -induced shock will significantly weaken its "already fragile funding and external positions".

Rajapaksa said on Friday that the country's trade deficit with China is too high and called on Beijing to increase the volume of goods purchased from Sri Lanka to bring it down.

(Reporting by Waruna Karunatilake in Colombo; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Louise Heavens)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.