The Covid-19 pandemic will create opportunities for Singapore and Sri Lanka to deepen trade ties, with agri-business and digitalisation singled out for particular focus during a webinar on Monday.
Addressing the webinar, Singapore's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Mr S. Chandra Das, spoke of new opportunities despite the fact that Covid-19 has been "a very tiring period both (for) diplomatic and business cooperation".
"New ideas will continue to multiply as we move to reopen our economies and societies. Covid-19 (will) spur us to re-imagine the possibilities and grab hold of new opportunities," he said.
Mr Chandra Das added: "Singapore and Sri Lanka have a longstanding trade relationship, particularly (in) the area of food."
"Our import of Sri Lankan produce has grown, both in quantity and variety, from cayenne spices to crabs," he said.
Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Singapore Sashikala Premawardhane said food security was among the areas in which the two countries could deepen cooperation.
"We've done very well on the investment side between 2015 and 2019," she said, pointing out that Singapore was Sri Lanka's fifth-largest investor. About 100 Singaporean businesses were operating in Sri Lanka, she added.
"We see huge opportunities for the two countries to... augment ties, particularly in the economic, trade and investment fields," she said.
Covid-19 has highlighted the importance for countries to keep in touch at a time when borders remain closed and supply chains have been disrupted, to ensure that food security issues do not hinder economic activities, she said.
Singapore produces less than 10 per cent of its nutritional needs locally.
The webinar on business opportunities, particularly in areas such as digitalisation and agri-business, was held on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Singapore and Sri Lanka.
Mr Chandra Das said: "The friendly relations between our two countries enjoyed today are founded on historical events, even familial ties, established long before our independence."
A statement from the Sri Lanka High Commission in Singapore noted that ties between the two countries go back to at least the 1800s, given that both share the same ancient maritime trade routes.
Topics covered during the webinar included digitalisation of businesses, food supply resilience in Singapore and food security.
Total bilateral trade last year was valued at US$883 million (S$1.2 billion), with Sri Lankan exports valued at US$115 million, according to the Sri Lanka High Commission.