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Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Sri Lanka is the 81st largest exporter in the world. The country exported USD 11.8 billion and imported USD 21 billion in 2016, resulting in a negative trade balance of USD 9.2 billion. Sri Lankan exports are less competitive than those of other countries in the region such as Bangladesh where the minimum wage is USD 70 as opposed to USD 120 in Sri Lanka. The country also limits its work week to 57.5 hours as opposed to 60 hours in Bangladesh and 64 hours in Vietnam.

The country’s trade policy centres on trade and aims to strengthen access for Sri Lankan products on the international market. As such, the Government has signed several bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, especially at the regional level. Customs duties are not very high and the country is easily accessible. However, non-tariff trade barriers remain, including restrictions on speculative trading by commercial banks, a VAT that is applied to profits before taxes and salaries and the fact that electronic documents are not allowed in courts. China and Sri Lanka are in the process of negotiating a free trade agreement. 

The European Union restored Sri Lanka's access to its Generalised System of Preferences Plus Programme; as they were suspended in 2010 due to human rights violations.

Sri Lanka’s trade balance is in structural deficit. After declining to some extent as a result of the global economic crisis, the trade deficit widened substantially following a decline in the country’s exports hit by the economic difficulties in its main trade partners, as well as instability in countries that import tea (the second product most exported by Sri Lanka), such as Syria, Iran and Libya. The trade balance is expected to remain negative in the coming years as domestic demand continues to be limited and economic growth in developed countries remains weak.

Sri Lanka mainly exports its very reputable tea, as well as gemstones, spices, coconut derivatives, rubber products, textiles and clothing. Its main export partners are the EU (around one-third of exports), the United States and India. The country imports textiles, mining products, fuel, food, machinery, and transport equipment from India, China, Japan, France, and the UAE.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 19,19018,00319,41719,05019,190
Exports of Goods (million USD) 9,38010,20811,29810,47010,340
Imports of Services (million USD) 4,4065,2325,5905,8866,199
Exports of Services (million USD) 3,7734,6575,5746,3667,138
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0-210118
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -0745-1
Trade Balance (million USD) -9,417-7,609-8,287-8,388-9,090
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 5149505051
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 3229292929
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 2020212121

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
United States 26.6%
United Kingdom 9.9%
India 7.1%
Germany 4.8%
Italy 4.1%
Belgium 3.2%
United Arab Emirates 2.8%
China 2.0%
Netherlands 2.0%
Japan 1.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
China 21.9%
India 19.6%
United Arab Emirates 5.5%
Singapore 5.3%
Japan 4.9%
Malaysia 3.3%
United States 2.8%
Thailand 2.6%
Hong Kong 2.4%
United Kingdom 2.3%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Products

10.6 bn USD of products exported in 2016
Tea, whether or not flavoured 11.9%
Women's or girls' slips, petticoats, briefs, panties, nightdresses, pyjamas, negligés, bathrobes, dressing gowns, housecoats and similar articles, knitted or crocheted (excl. t-shirts, vests, brassieres, girdles, corsets and similar articles) 5.8%
Brassieres, girdles, corsets, braces, suspenders, garters and similar articles and parts thereof, of all types of textile materials, whether or not elasticated, incl. knitted or crocheted (excl. belts and corselets made entirely of rubber) 5.4%
Women's or girls' suits, ensembles, jackets, blazers, dresses, skirts, divided skirts, trousers, bib and brace overalls, breeches and shorts, knitted or crocheted (excl. wind-jackets and similar articles, slips, petticoats and panties, track suits, ski suits and swimwear) 4.6%
Women's or girls' suits, ensembles, jackets, blazers, dresses, skirts, divided skirts, trousers, bib and brace overalls, breeches and shorts (excl. knitted or crocheted, wind-jackets and similar articles, slips, petticoats and panties, track suits, ski suits and swimwear) 4.4%
T-shirts, singlets and other vests, knitted or crocheted 4.3%
Men's or boys' suits, ensembles, jackets, blazers, trousers, bib and brace overalls, breeches and shorts (excl. knitted or crocheted, wind-jackets and similar articles, separate waistcoats, track suits, ski suits and swimwear) 3.3%
Retreaded or used pneumatic tyres of rubber; solid or cushion tyres, tyre treads and tyre flaps, of rubber 3.0%
Gloves, mittens and mitts, knitted or crocheted (excl. for babies) 2.4%
Babies' garments and clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted (excl. hats) 2.0%
19.5 bn USD of products imported in 2016
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 7.4%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 3.3%
Fabrics, knitted or crocheted, of a width of > 30 cm (excl. warp knit fabrics incl. those made on galloon knitting machines, those containing by weight >= 5% of elastomeric yarn or rubber thread, and pile fabrics, incl. long pile, looped pile fabrics, labels, badges and similar articles, and knitted or crocheted fabrics, impregnated, coated, covered or laminated) 3.1%
Cement, incl. cement clinkers, whether or not coloured 2.7%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 2.5%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.1%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 1.9%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 1.7%
Woven fabrics of cotton, containing >= 85% cotton by weight and weighing > 200 g/m² 1.5%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 1.4%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Services

11.2 bn USD of services exported in 2014
Computer and information services
Financial services
Communications services
Insurance services
Construction services
Other business services
Government services
7.5 bn USD of services imported in 2014
Financial services
Computer and information services
Communications services
Insurance services
Government services
Other business services
Construction services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data


Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Main International Economic Cooperation
Member of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The country have signed a trade agreement with 21 other countries in the São Paulo Round of the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP).
Useful Resources
Sri Lanka Customs
National Organisation of Intellectual Property
The National Intellectual Property Office of Sri Lanka.


Learn more about How to Export to Sri Lanka on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Last Updates: November 2017