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China, Sri Lanka ink 27 agreements during Xi visit
September 17, 2014, 5:19 am

Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa (3rd L) attend a video-link launching of a coal power plant in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sept. 16, 2014 [Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa (3rd L) attend a video-link launching of a coal power plant in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sept. 16, 2014 [Xinhua]

China and Sri Lanka have announced the launch of negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) during a high-profile Colombo visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xi and his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday witnessed the signing of 27 cooperation agreements in infrastructure and research to “strengthen the two countries’ strategic partnership”.

The two leaders oversaw the launch of Colombo Port City, for which China had granted the island nation $1.4 billion in loan.

Xi also asserted Beijing’s support for Sri Lanka amid allegations of human rights abuses during its civil war and calls for a UN investigation into alleged war crimes.

“China firmly supports Sri Lanka’s efforts to safeguard its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the Sri Lankan people’s choice of development path according to its national conditions,” Xi said.

China’s fellow BRICS member South Africa had said earlier this year that Sri Lankans should be allowed to find an internal resolution to allegations of war atrocities.

“We should all strive to support all Sri Lankans on their journey to find a sustainable and permanent solution,” Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation told the 25th Session of the UNHRC earlier this month.

Sri Lanka’s government is considering a process similar to South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal the wounds of its decades-long civil war.

Xi and Rajapaksa on Tuesday also witnessed the launch of the final phase of $1.3 billion coal power plant.

Beijing also roped in Sri Lanka as a partner in its rebuilding the ancient Silk Route.

The Silk Road connected China and Europe from around 100 B.C. The 4,000-mile road linked ancient Chinese, Babylonian, Arabic, Greek and Roman civilizations.

A new map unveiled by Xinhua shows the Chinese plans for the Silk Road run through Central China to the northern Xinjiang from where it travels through Central Asia entering Kazakhstan and onto Iraq, Iran, Syria and then Istanbul in Turkey from where it runs across Europe cutting across Germany, Netherlands and Italy.

The maritime Silk Road begins in China’s Fujian and ends at Venice, Italy.

“We both believe we have to make use of the opportunity brought about by the 21st century maritime Silk Road to strengthen our cooperation in such areas as port construction and development, development of coastal industrial parks, maritime economy and maritime security,” Xi told Rajapaksa on Tuesday.

Bilateral trade increased 368 per cent to reach $3 billion in the period from 2005-2013.

China’s central bank also announced late Tuesday that it had signed a 10 billion yuan (around $1.63 billion) currency swap deal with the central bank of Sri Lanka.

The three-year agreement aims to promote bilateral trade and strengthen financial cooperation between the two central banks, said a statement on website of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC).

The deal could be extended upon agreements by the two sides, it said.

Two weeks ago, the PBOC signed an agent investment agreement with its Sri Lankan counterpart which allows the former, on behalf of the latter, to make investments in China’s interbank bond market.


TBP and Agencies

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