BEIJING May 16 Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe told Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday that
he welcomed increased Chinese investment in Sri Lanka's major
infrastructure projects, Chinese state media said.
China signed a deal with Sri Lanka late last year to further
develop the strategic port of Hambantota and build a huge
industrial zone nearby, a key part of Xi's signature economic
and foreign policy to create a modern-day "Silk Road" across
Asia, Europe and Africa.
But amid concern over increasing Chinese investment,
hundreds of Sri Lankans clashed with police at the industrial
zone's opening in January.
Meeting Xi in Beijing after attending China's Belt and Road
Forum on Sunday and Monday, Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka was
willing to work with China to "successfully push forward" the
Hambantota and Colombo Port City projects, according to official
Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Xi said the construction of a China-Sri Lanka free trade
zone would prove a key starting point in promoting fair and
sustainable development in bilateral trade, accelerate ease of
investment and realise the unimpeded flow of trade and capital.
Major projects with Sri Lanka should act as precursors for
driving infrastructure connectivity and maritime and aviation
cooperation, Xi added, according to Xinhua's report.
Sri Lanka aims to finalise a free trade agreement with China
this year, their 65th anniversary year of trade relations.
(Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Nick Macfie)