Colombo, March 6 (IANS) India will provide assistance to Sri Lanka's footwear industry while talks are on to conclude a far-reaching economic pact, Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen has said.
Sri Lanka's footwear industry, which imports the bulk of its raw material from Chennai, is expected to see a healthy growth after the government granted vital tax concessions in the last budget, the ministry told an industry meet here over the weekend.
The request to New Delhi is for skills building and training for the local footwear and leather industry.
'The emerging demand for designer footwear in Sri Lanka appears to be a new trend, which Indian sellers can exploit,' he told the fourth Indian Leather Buyer Seller Meet here, which was attended by several leading players from the Indian industry.
Organised by the Council of Leather Exports of India, the previous edition of the event in Sri Lanka had seen confirmed orders worth $19,500 and several times more in the form of buyer-seller inquiries.
Bathiudeen also told the meet that Sri Lanka was working towards early conclusion of the bilateral economic cooperation agreement with India and that the Cabinet had appointed an inter-governmental panel under Sri Lanka's director general of commerce.
'In this context, I am hopeful of an early finalisation of the process whereby both neighbours will strengthen our centuries-long historic relations.'
India is the fourth largest investor in Sri Lanka, with prominent companies such as the state-run Indian Oil Corp, the Tata group, the Bharti group, Piramals, Life Insurance Corp, Ashok Leyland, Larsen and Toubro and the Taj Hotels having a presence here.
Bilateral trade has multiplied nearly five-fold over eight years. During January-August 2010, it touched $1.83 billion, compared to $1.29 billion in the corresponding period in 2009.