By Uditha Jayasinghe
COLOMBO, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka is ready to promote relations with China during an official visit of the latter's top legislator, which is the most high profile visit to the island nation in recent years and could have enormous economic potential, an economist said here on Friday.
Economist Sirimal Abeyratne who is also the head of the Economics Department in the University of Colombo is upbeat about relations between the two countries and insists that it needs to expand to trade and not just loans to become sustainably productive for Sri Lanka.
Speaking to Xinhua ahead of the visit by Chairman Wu Bangguo of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Saturday, Dr. Abeyratne pointed out that Sri Lanka's exports to China was still around 1 percent of the island's total trade.
"Trade between the two countries is still at an early stage but is very important given the size and depth of China's market. Relations need to expand beyond investment and loans. If it does so then it would be enormously beneficial for Sri Lanka," he noted.
With the rapid development of bilateral relations, China is involved in almost all the large scale projects under construction in the Indian Ocean island.
Some of the biggest projects include a 1.3 billion U.S. dollar coal power plant on the north western shore as well as a host of other investments in the south of the country including a 1.2 billion dollar port and 209 million U.S. dollar airport.
China has also pledged 760 million U.S. dollars to improve the road network and is also heavily involved in highway construction.
So close has the relationship become that Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Wu Jianghao described it as being the "best in history" since the two countries forged diplomatic ties in 1955.
More than 10 agreements are earmarked to be signed during the Chinese top legislator's visit, the ambassador told reporters earlier this week.
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