Sri Lankan ambassador Rodney Perera with Dirk Van Der Ploeg, Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in Luxembourg at the celebrations to make 70 years of the country’s independence.
Photo: Delano staff
Sri Lanka air freight deal
Sri Lankan ambassador Rodney Perera has said that his country is close to obtaining an agreement for regular air freight routes from Colombo to Luxembourg.
Speaking at a belated celebration of Sri Lankan Independence Day in Luxembourg on Sunday, Perera said that relationships with the European Union have been improving steadily, and, with discussions of human rights underway, trade is also opening up. Last year, Sri Lanka was granted GSP+ status by the EU, which allows it to export some 6,000 items to the European market without paying duties, the ambassador explained.
Last year the embassy in Brussels really started working with Luxembourg said Perera, who is ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union. He made a point of ensuring that foreign minister Tilak Marapana visited Luxembourg and met with Jean Asselborn during his trip to Belgium in September 2017.
“The outcome is that we are very close to concluding and signing an aviation agreement between Luxembourg and Sri Lanka, so that we can have direct scheduled [cargo] flights…we are trying to get this connection established within the next weeks or months.”
The embassy is also working with chambers of commerce to organise a business delegation visit from Sri Lanka in May. “Our plan is to have a business promotion event at which companies can showcase their products. We have a couple of months lead time to arrange B2B meetings and networking.”
A tourism event might also be organised in conjunction with the trade event. Indeed, tourism is a very important and growing sector for the Sri Lankan economy. The embassy and honorary consul Dirk Van Der Ploeg, have hosted a stand at the annual Vakanz fair for three years now with measurable success. But, Perera explained, getting the Sri Lankan tourist authorities on board was not straight forward. “Many thought that Luxembourg was a province on Belgium, they didn’t know the importance of Luxembourg as a financial and logistics centre,” he said. “It took several months of sending information to get the country known in to Sri Lanka, so more or less I was the ambassador for Luxembourg.”
Comparing the situation of Luxembourg to Sri Lanka, the ambassador said he remembered trying to explain to people all around the world--including actor Will Smith, once--where Sri Lanka was. The challenge now was to “create the next generation to take care of this relationship, that we are trying to build up.”