Sri Lanka will look to diversify exports to Iran after Tehran proposed to host the island to a round of trade negotiations this August, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said.
Iran’s envoy to Colombo Mohammad Zaerl Amirani on Tuesday said Tehran was keen to host the 12th Sessions of the Joint-Commission for Economic Cooperation (JCEC) between the two countries by early as August 2018, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
“Tea accounts for 90 percent of our exports to Iran and it’s time to diversify our exports basket. The August JCEC meeting can help us achieve this,” Sri Lanka’s Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen said.
The last time the joint commission met was in February 2016. The joint commission was established three decades ago.
The renewed interest in reviving bilateral trade negotiations follows President’s Maithripala Sirisena’s visit to Iran where he met with President Hassan Rouhani who had stressed the importance of the joint commission, according to the statement.
“This JCEC can help grow our trade numbers, which is in need of a boost,” Iran’s ambassador Amirani said
Trade between the two countries totalled 188 million US dollars in 2017, growing 4.5 percent from a year earlier, with Sri Lanka’s exports to Iran amounting to 177 million dollars.
Imports from Iran amounted to just 11 million dollars on fish, cables and wires, grapes and plastic items. Iranian imports had topped 1.4 billion dollars in 2011 dominated by oil which was cut-off by US sanctions since 2013.
During President Sirisena’s recent visit to Iran the two countries signed several agreements covering drug trafficking, health, standardization, film industry and exchange of students, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said.