Sri Lanka is poised to advance the cause of free trade among member nations of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) as it assumes the chairmanship of the organization, according to Foreign Minister Ali Sabry. The South Asian nation is set to take over the chairmanship for the 2023-25 term next month, with the group's highest decision-making body convening in Colombo. Representatives from IORA member states, including the UAE, Oman, and Yemen, along with dialogue partners such as Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the US, are expected to participate.
Foreign Minister Sabry expressed Sri Lanka's commitment to collaborating with all IORA member countries, including those in the Middle East, to facilitate the organization's growth, mutual learning, sharing of experiences and technical expertise, and, ultimately, the establishment of a free trade arrangement among member countries.
"Our aim is to bring together these diverse countries to network and build good relationships in terms of social security, economic, and maritime affairs," Sabry stated.
IORA, established in 1999, consists of 23 member nations and 11 dialogue partners. Its mission is to strengthen regional cooperation and promote sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region. This region, home to approximately 2.7 billion people, representing more than a third of the world's population, plays a crucial role in global trade and energy resources. However, it faces various challenges, ranging from piracy to geopolitical tensions.
As Sri Lanka prepares to take over the chairmanship from Bangladesh, the country aims to develop a framework within IORA to better address issues like piracy, smuggling, and drug trafficking.
"Sri Lanka is committed to maintaining the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace," emphasized Minister Sabry. "The idea is to create a secure dialogue and diplomacy to solve differences and leverage strengths to create a better world for all."
Sri Lanka's upcoming leadership in IORA presents an opportunity to foster greater cooperation and economic growth among member nations while addressing shared challenges within the Indian Ocean region.