COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will work to boost free trade among member nations of the Indian Ocean Rim Association when it assumes chairmanship of the organization, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said on Wednesday.
The South Asian nation is set to take over the chairmanship for the 2023-25 period next month, when the group’s highest decision-making body meets in Colombo. Representatives of IORA member states, including the UAE, Oman and Yemen, are expected to attend along with its dialogue partners, such as Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the US.
“Sri Lanka would want to work with all countries in IORA, including the Middle Eastern countries, and help the organization to grow from strength to strength, learn from each other and share experiences and technical know-how, and ultimately to create a free trade arrangement among the member countries,” Sabry told Arab News.
“Our aim is to bring together these diverse countries to network and build good relationships in terms of social security, economic and maritime affairs.”
Established in 1999, the IORA has 23 members and 11 dialogue partners. It works to strengthen regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region.
That region is home to about 2.7 billion people — more than a third of the world’s population — and is considered vital for global trade and energy resources, though it faces challenges, from piracy to geopolitical tensions.
Sri Lanka, which will take over the chairmanship from Bangladesh, is seeking to foster an architecture for the IORA to better tackle issues like piracy, smuggling and drug trafficking.
“Sri Lanka is committed to (maintaining) the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace,” Sabry said.
“The idea is to create a secure dialogue and diplomacy to solve differences and to build on strengths to create a better world for all.”