COLOMBO, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- A proposed Free Trade Agreement ( FTA) between Sri Lanka and China is to be signed in June 2015, Deputy Secretary to Treasury S. R. Attygalle said here on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa also noted the same time frame during the budget presentation to parliament last Friday.
The FTA, which was initially to be signed by the end of 2014, is expected to boost Sri Lanka's future development and promote trade between the two countries, which have developed increasingly closer economic and trade relations in recent years.
On the planned FTA dialogue, President Rajapaksa had said, "Our cooperation covers many sectors including industry, energy, technology, infrastructure and tourism."
He said the FTA will boost the trade and investment ties as well as Sri Lanka's export to China, creating new momentum for the island nation's development.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the island in September, the first by a Chinese head of state in 28 years, helped expand cooperation and cement the ties in trade and economy between the two countries.
During President Rajapaksa's state visit to China in May 2013, the two leaders agreed to elevate the bilateral relations to a " strategic cooperation partnership" by substantially expanding the mandate for engagement.
The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding and agreed to establish a joint working group on trade to study the feasibility of a China-Sri Lanka free trade agreement and measures to enhance Sri Lankan exports to China.
A joint feasibility study on the proposed FTA was completed in March 2014 and concluded that the building of an FTA will bring benefits to both countries.
Although Sri Lanka's exports to China have increased from 28.39 million U.S. dollars in 2005 to 121.63 million U.S. dollars in 2013, trade balance remains significantly in favor of China. Bilateral trade reached 3.62 billion U.S. dollars in 2013.
Sri Lanka hopes the FTA will help the country to gain easier access to the Chinese market and gradually reduce its trade deficit towards the world's second largest economy.
Some of Sri Lanka's main export items to China include coir fiber, garments, tea, rubber and precious stones.
China has also become Sri Lanka's largest loan provider since the end of the island country's three-decade war in 2009. China has lent the Sri Lankan government an estimated 5 billion U.S. dollars for massive infrastructure projects including roads, railways, international airports, ports and even a 1.2 billion U.S. dollar coal power plant.