Click here to read Rabobank's economic vision for this country. The information and publications in this tab are prepared and made available by third parties and are only available in English. No rights can be derived. Rabobank is not responsible or liable for the information and publications. Click here for the full disclaimer.

Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Sri Lanka is open to trade, which accounts for 50.5% of GDP (World Bank, 2016). Nonetheless, its share in GDP has declined almost continuously since early 2000s after peaking at 88.6% in 2000. Sri Lanka is the 81st largest exporter and 74th largest importer in the world. According to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade, exports reached an all-time high of USD 11.4 billion in 2017 (%10 y-o-y increase) while imports rose to USD 21.3 billion.

Tea exports were particularly strong in 2017 (+20%), benefiting from higher prices and a better access to the Middle Eastern market. Fisheries (+40%) also benefited from the lifting of the EU ban in June 2016 and GSP+ (Generalised scheme of preferences) concession that allows Sri Lankan exports to reach European markets at lower tariff rates. Sri Lankan exports have been traditionally less competitive than those of other countries in the region such as Bangladesh and Vietnam due to higher minimum wage rates. Nevertheless, after a rapid fall in the value of the Sri Lankan rupee and a minimum wage hike for the workers of the garment industry in Bangladesh, the minimum wage in Sri Lanka on par with that of Bangladesh and lower than that of Vietnam. This factor, coupled with the GSP+ concession, should help boost apparel exports from Sri Lanka to Europe in 2018.

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. 



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)
2017
United States 24.9%
United Kingdom 8.9%
India 6.7%
Germany 4.7%
Italy 4.5%
China 3.7%
Belgium 3.0%
United Arab Emirates 2.6%
Turkey 2.0%
Singapore 2.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2017
India 21.1%
China 19.7%
United Arab Emirates 7.3%
Singapore 6.1%
Japan 4.9%
United States 3.8%
Malaysia 3.0%
Thailand 2.4%
Hong Kong 2.1%
Germany 1.9%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 

Main Products

11.7 bn USD of products exported in 2017
Tea, whether or not flavoured 12.9%
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) 5.1%
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) 5.0%
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) 4.2%
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) 4.0%
T-shirts, singlets and other vests, knitted or crocheted 3.7%
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 2.8%
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 2.5%
Gloves, mittens and mitts, knitted or crocheted (excl. for babies) 2.5%
21.3 bn USD of products imported in 2017
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 9.8%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 3.0%
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) 2.9%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 2.8%
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) 2.6%
Cement, incl. cement clinkers, whether or not coloured 2.5%
Transmission apparatus for radio-telephony, radio-telegraphy, radio-broadcasting or television, whether or not incorporating reception apparatus or sound recording or reproducing apparatus; television cameras; still image video cameras and other video camera recorders; digital cameras 2.1%
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) 1.8%
Semi-finished products of iron or non-alloy steel 1.7%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 1.6%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 
 

Main Services

11.2 bn USD of services exported in 2014
Travel
43.37%
Transportation
34.31%
Computer and information services
11.20%
Financial services
4.56%
Communications services
2.14%
Insurance services
2.05%
Construction services
1.04%
Other business services
0.76%
Government services
0.56%
7.5 bn USD of services imported in 2014
Transportation
39.24%
Travel
33.89%
Financial services
9.38%
Computer and information services
8.06%
Communications services
2.63%
Insurance services
2.40%
Government services
2.05%
Other business services
1.56%
Construction services
0.77%

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 Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

© Export Entreprises SA, All Rights Reserved.
Last Updates: June 2018