He said this while addressing the 56th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held at the Indonesian Embassy in Colombo on Tuesday. Sri Lanka Will work closely with ASEAN countries, the Office of the President said.
„Sri Lanka’s economic focus must now shift to the east, given the region’s rapid growth,” Wickramasinghe said.
„What is needed now is for all areas to work closely together to achieve that objective,” he said.
Realizing the potential of this broad trade bloc, Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka has applied to join the RCEP.
Sri Lanka is currently working with its external creditors to renegotiate more than US$40 billion to meet an IMF deadline by next month.
The country also hopes to begin negotiations to establish free trade agreements with ASEAN member states.
One of the key features of the new policy is the initiation of free trade agreements with ASEAN countries.
Sri Lanka has already forged an important trade agreement with Singapore and is actively negotiating with Thailand.
Wickremesinghe’s statement underscored the country’s determination to strengthen its economic connectivity within the wider Asian region. The President affirmed his alignment with ASEAN’s future vision for the Indo-Pacific region, pledging full support for the advancement of this strategic perspective.
These proposed collaborations highlight Sri Lanka’s commitment to fostering economic cooperation and trade links that are poised to open new avenues for growth and development. The President’s statements reaffirm the country’s readiness to actively engage in regional economic partnerships to realize its economic aspirations.
The island nation was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, suffering the worst foreign exchange reserve deficit since independence from Britain in 1948.
In light of Sri Lanka’s recent fiscal challenges and need for rejuvenation, President Wickremesinghe expressed a renewed commitment to pursuing closer ties with ASEAN.
He acknowledged the strong cultural and historical links between Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka, underlining the importance of building on these ties to drive economic and political cooperation.
Wickremesinghe said he wanted to express his desire for Sri Lanka to be a region free of military interventions as an Indian Ocean nation.
That policy is consistent with ASEAN’s objectives for the Indian Ocean region.
RCEP has 15 members, 10 ASEAN member states, as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
ASEAN is a regional organization comprising 10 Southeast Asian countries that promote economic development. It includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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