Published On:October 14 2008
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Lankan minister held bilateral talks with Australia
Colombo: Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama who is on an official visit to Australia at the invitation of Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith held bilateral talks at the Parliament House in Canberra, the Foreign Ministry said.
Welcoming the Sri Lankan Minister, Foreign Minister Smith recalled previous meetings they had in Singapore at the ASEAN Regional Forum and more recently in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA.
Referring to the two-way Trade between Sri Lanka and Australia, he mentioned that it surpassed A$ 300 million.
Referring to bilateral trade Minister Bogollagama said there was scope for further enhancement. Further he stated that in view of the Free Trade Agreements Sri Lanka had entered with India and Pakistan, investing in Sri Lanka would be an attractive proposition for Australian companies, as they would facilitate them to enter the vast Indian Sub-continental market on competitive terms.
Foreign Minister Smith noted that the Australian Government provides A$ 39 million annually in development assistance to Sri Lanka, and to coincide with the visit of Minister Bogollagama another A$ 6 million will be provided over three years for primary school education through UNICEF.
Referring to the importance of the Sri Lankan diaspora of 150,000 and over 5,000 students presently studying in Australia, Minister Smith noted that the visit taking place at this juncture was important in reaching out to the diaspora as well as Australian public in general.
Minister Smith observed that this visit was helpful in enhancing the relationship between the two countries as exchanges between Governments further develop people to people contacts, as well as to understand the difficult issues faced by Sri Lanka.
Minister Smith thanked Sri Lanka for the support given for Australia to become an observer in the SAARC.
While thanking the Australian Foreign Minister for the invitation extended, Minister Bogollagama mentioned that his visit was taking place ten years after the last official visit undertaken by a Sri Lankan Foreign Minister to Australia.
He stated that the friendship between the two countries remained close and next year would mark the 60th Anniversary since the establishment of the Sri Lanka High Commission in Canberra.
Noting the sizeable presence of a Sri Lankan community in Australia he thanked the Australian Government for being a good host to them and for the contribution made by them to Australia in diverse fields. Minister Bogollagama also appreciated the assistance given by Australia over the years in various sectors stating that Australia was also an important investor in Sri Lanka.
Minister Smith accepted Minister Bogollagama's invitation to visit Sri Lanka early next year.