3 quick questions for Jan Thesleff, Sweden’s ambassador to India, the Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. He has worked as a diplomat for 36 years and has previously served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt among other countries. Jan Thesleff describes Sri Lanka as innovative and green. The pace of innovation is high in the country’s IT sector and the country’s energy system is now being converted to renewable energy.
1. What are Sri Lanka’s main assets as a trading partner?
The biggest asset is human capital, a highly educated workforce, especially in the IT sector where many global IT companies have strategic establishments in the country. Another way to describe the role of human capital is Sri Lanka’s third place behind China and India in terms of the number of student visas to Swedish universities. Sri Lanka is also geographically very well placed with proximity to larger neighboring countries and can therefore serve as a springboard for establishments in the Asian market.
2. How can trade between Sri Lanka and Sweden be developed?
Next year, Sri Lanka and Sweden will celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations. We look forward to further strengthening the relationship over the next 25 years and beyond. Based on the manufacturing industry, the assessment is that Sri Lanka’s IT sector will play an increasingly important role in trade in the future. The sector has experienced rapid growth in a short period of time and it is therefore reasonable to speak of a Sri Lankan IT wonder. The tourism sector also has great potential as part of trade in services. Sri Lanka has gone through a steel bath and can now offer a very high quality and updated tourism product to discerning Swedish visitors.
3. The SSLBC member survey identified business visas to Sweden as a problem area. How does the Embassy work with this?
The ability to travel is fundamental to doing business across national borders and for maintaining existing business relationships. The Embassy is aware of the current situation and is working to facilitate business travel to Sweden. In this context, it is also important to point out that the issue is not specific to Sri Lanka. At the same time, it is valuable for the Embassy to receive feedback from the SSLBC members through the member survey. It is also important to mention that there is a new honorary consul in Colombo who has an important role in promoting our bilateral exchange in trade and visits.