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Commonwealth leaders focus on post-2015 development in summit with high China presence

COLOMBO, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Commonwealth leaders on Sunday committed to work on post-2015 development including debt financing and climate change during a conference that was marred by criticism over Sri Lanka's human rights record.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was preceded by three other conferences. The Commonwealth People's Forum and Youth Forum were successfully completed this week, with Sri Lanka agreeing to host a secretariat to represent 1.2 billion young people who are part of the organization's 53 members.

The Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) saw a record attendance by 95 countries, including the largest delegation from a non- Commonwealth nation belonging to China. The CBF has outlined a target of attracting 2 billion U.S. dollars in investment to Sri Lanka.

In addition to the 100 members of the Chinese delegation, 42 other Chinese companies participated in a special trade and investment exhibition held on the sidelines of the CHOGM.

"We thank the partnership of the Chinese government, and the business organizations, in our development projects. Bilateral trade between our two countries has been increasing over the years to record 2.6 billion in 2012," Sri Lanka's Trade Minister Rishad Bathiudeen told reporters.

Three Chinese companies also signed deals worth over 1.5 billion U.S. dollars with Sri Lanka during the CHOGM week.

The China Communications Construction Company signed preliminary agreements to build a port city redefining the shoreline of capital Colombo at an investment of 1.3 billion U.S. dollars.

The port city project, which aims to reclaim a 230 hectare site from the sea to build a mini-city that is expected to include a Formula 1 racetrack, is projected by the Sri Lankan government to attract 15 billion U.S. dollars in investment for the country.

A second agreement will be signed between Sri Lanka's Board of Investment (BOI) and Hong Kong-based Evic International Engineering Co and Nice View Investment Co. for a 250 million U.S. dollar multi-development project that will also include a block of apartments in Colombo.

"Sri Lanka has already reached 1 billion U.S. dollars in investment so far this year. With the signing of these deals, Sri Lanka meets its goal of attracting 2 billion U.S. dollars in foreign direct investment for 2013," said Sri Lanka's Investment Promotion Minister Abeywardana.

The China Harbor Engineering Company signed agreements to build two hotels and a golf course with an investment exceeding 500 million U.S. dollars during the CBF.

The contracts come on the heels of many other projects completed with Chinese funding. In fact much of the infrastructure for the CHOGM was provided by China, including a 292 million U.S. dollar highway connecting Sri Lanka's international airport with the capital that whisked thousands of delegates.

The venues for the main sessions of the CHOGM and the opening ceremony were also built or refurbished on funding from China.

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