China and Sri Lanka could sign a free trade agreement by the end of the year, state news agency Xinhua cited Sri Lanka's foreign minister as saying, a move that will help cement Colombo's growing economic and diplomatic ties with Beijing. Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, who is on a four-day visit to China, said "the feasibility study is on the verge of completion". Peiris told Xinhua in an interview published late on Wednesday it would be the most significant bilateral achievement since the 1952 Rubber-Rice Pact, when rubber and rice was bartered between China and Sri Lanka. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Thursday that the two countries "are currently undertaking feasibility studies and look forward to starting the negotiations at an early date".