At the bilateral talks held on 26 March, the two leaders engaged in a warm and friendly exchange of views on a broad range of issues of mutual interest covering bilateral political relations; economic cooperation including, inter alia, development cooperation; trade, investment and tourism; cultural cooperation and people-to-people contacts.
President Sirisena welcomed the keen interest demonstrated by China to engage with the new Government of Sri Lanka. He briefed President Xi Jinping on the policy of the new Government and the mandate given to him by the people of Sri Lanka on 8 January 2015 to restore good governance, the rule of law and democracy, and progress with regard to the Government’s 100 Day Work Programme, including the proposed constitutional reforms. President Sirisena indicated that his Government has drawn inspiration from President Xi Jinping’s own campaign in eradicating corruption and promoting good governance. President Sirisena also informed the Chinese President that the new Government will proceed with a transparent and genuine process of national reconciliation and consolidation of peace and human rights in the country, and will work in partnership with the international community towards this end.
The two leaders reiterated the view that Sri Lanka and China are all weather friends, whose relations span centuries and have stood the test of time. They reaffirmed that the bilateral relations and strong bonds of friendship are founded on mutual respect and understanding, and shared cultural values. President Sirisena reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment to uphold the ‘One China Policy’ which has been a consistent position in Sri Lanka’s foreign policy. The two leaders reiterated the shared adherence of the two countries to the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence or Pancha Sheela. President Sirisena reiterated the deep appreciation of Sri Lanka for the steadfast support extended by China in defeating terrorism, as well as in safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
Both sides agreed that the historic state visit of President Xi Jinping to Sri Lanka in September 2014 has led to the further consolidation of the cooperative partnership between the two countries, and that they will make joint efforts to further enhance substantive cooperation to elevate the bilateral relations to a new level of excellence.
In the context of Sri Lanka’s traditional position of Non-alignment, Sri Lanka shared the interest of China in the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road for greater economic cooperation. President Sirisena expressed willingness to explore this concept which Sri Lanka viewed as a road of friendship, economic cooperation and cultural and social exchange in a new, inclusive and inter-connected world.
The two leaders agreed to work towards the successful conclusion of the proposed China-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which is under negotiation, and which has the potential of setting in motion a new chapter in bilateral trade and economic relations. President Sirisena signalled Sri Lanka’s interest to see genuine progress on the FTA, while recognising the asymmetries between the two economies, towards achieving a more balanced and sustainable bilateral trade and economic cooperation. The two sides agreed to convene the third round of negotiations on the FTA in the near future.
The two leaders agreed to consider ways and means of enhancing future development cooperation between the two countries. President Sirisena acknowledged the contribution of Chinese development assistance to Sri Lanka’s socio-economic prosperity, and welcomed assistance in priority sectors identified by the Government. He expressed his deep appreciation to the Chinese Government for the grant assistance to establish a hospital, a special laboratory and a modern pharmaceutical laboratory institute for the research and treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease in Sri Lanka, the latter being an acute health problem affecting many segments of the population in the country, and therefore warranting high-level remedial action. In this context, he also welcomed the proposed cooperation between the Chinese Academy of Science and the Ministry of Urban Development of Sri Lanka to undertake a scientific study of water ways in Sri Lanka to detect possible causes of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology, as well as to ensure safety of drinking water through joint efforts.
President Sirisena welcomed the assistance provided by China in the areas of public health, trade and commerce, agriculture and human resource development. In this regard, five (05) MOUs / Agreements were signed during the visit on cooperation for special aid in public health, development of water treatment methods and technologies in kidney disease affected areas, research and development of the coconut industry, and refurbishment of the Superior Courts Complex in Sri Lanka, President Sirisena also welcomed the offer by China of 2000 training opportunities for young scientists from Sri Lanka in the next five years, as well as the further promotion of cultural exchanges and Chinese language training in Sri Lanka.
President Sirisena welcomed China’s expanding Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) portfolio in Sri Lanka, and China’s resolve to encourage competitive Chinese companies to invest in Sri Lanka. He indicated that his Government is in the process of making the business and investment climate in Sri Lanka more favourable to investment by instituting reforms that ensure transparency and the rule of law.
The two leaders welcomed the acceleration of cooperation between the two countries in the tourism industry, and agreed to further cooperate in the tourism sector to realise its full potential. They were encouraged by the significant and steady increase in tourist arrivals from China to Sri Lanka in the past several years. President Sirisena appreciated the support extended by the Chinese Government in promoting Sri Lanka as an attractive tourist destination in China, and informed that China has been identified as a priority source country for Sri Lanka’s tourist market.
President Xi Jinping welcomed Sri Lanka’s acceptance of China’s invitation to become a founding member of the Asian Investment and Infrastructure Development Bank (AAIB).
The two leaders agreed to further strengthen cooperation in the regional and multilateral fora. President Sirisena expressed his appreciation for China’s steadfast support to Sri Lanka in the Human Rights Council. He also appreciated China’s participation / membership in regional groups committed to peace and stability. Sri Lanka valued China’s cooperation with SAARC as an Observer.
In conclusion, the two leaders expressed mutual satisfaction that this high-level visit would signal the continued consolidation of the close relations for mutual benefit. As modern nations, Sri Lanka and China have forged a bilateral relationship which has been a model of how despite asymmetries of power, size and population, principles of equality and mutual respect have bound two countries together.
During the visit, President Sirisena is also scheduled to participate in the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2015 on 28 March in Boao, Hainan Province, joining other world leaders and the global business community, on the invitation of President Xi Jinping. The Boao Forum for Asia Conference brings together the leaders of Asia and the world and the global business community upon a common platform for constructive dialogue. The President is due to address the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference on the theme of ‘Asia’s New Future: Towards a Community of Common Destiny’.’
President Sirisena was accompanied by Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Hon. Ravi Karunanayake, Minister of Finance; Hon. Rauff Hakeem, Minister of Urban Development, Water Supply and Drainage; Hon. Patali Champika Ranawaka, Minister of Power and Energy; Hon. (Dr.) Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Health and Indigenous Medicine; Hon. (Dr.) Wijayadasa Rajapaksha, Minister of Justice, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka; Hon. Jagath Pushpakumara, Deputy Minister of Plantation Industries; Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ms. Chitranganee Wagiswara, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to China H.E. Ranjith Uyangoda, and senior officials from the Presidential Secretariat, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sri Lanka Embassy in Beijing were associated with the visit.