Sri Lanka govt com­pletes $1.1bn port deal with China

Muscat Daily - - BUSINESS -

Colombo, Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka on Satur­day sealed a bil­lion-dol­lar deal to let a Chi­nese state firm take over a loss-mak­ing port in a move that wor­ries many, in­clud­ing its gi­ant neigh­bour In­dia.

The long-de­layed US$1.1bn sale of a 70 per cent stake in Ham­ban­tota port, which strad­dles the world’s busiest eastwest ship­ping route, was con­firmed by Sri Lanka’s Ports Min­is­ter Mahinda Sa­ma­ras­inghe.

The gov­ern­ment used tough laws against in­dus­trial ac­tion to stop work­ers go­ing on strike this week to op­pose the sale to China Mer­chants Port Hold­ings.

“We have ad­dressed geo-po­lit­i­cal con­cerns,” the min­is­ter said at a sign­ing cer­e­mony in Colombo. “China has ac­cepted that ev­ery­thing in this agree­ment will op­er­ate un­der Sri Lankan law.”

The min­is­ter said this week that sev­eral coun­tries had raised fears about the sale. In­dia and the United States are known to be con­cerned that China get­ting a foothold at the deep-sea port could give it a mil­i­tary naval ad­van­tage in the In­dian Ocean.

Sa­ma­ras­inghe said that Ham­ban­tota will not be a mil­i­tary base for any coun­try.

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