Dr. Harsha de Silva | Bandula Egodage | Sonali Wijeratne

Sri Lanka requires a standard mechanism where the country’s export inspection process is recognized by the importing countries.

This observation was made by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Harsha de Silva during a recent forum held at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. de Silva, who was the Deputy Minister of Policy Planning in the interim government post the January 8 Presidential Election stated that it was of no use if Sri Lanka’s inspection mechanism was not recognized by the export market.

“Do we have an Export Inspection Agency? What is the point if our inspection mechanism is not recognized by an institution in Chennai? What have we done to build mutual trust between these institutions?” Dr. de Silva questioned during his speech.

However, he pointed out that India had an Export Inspection Council (EIC) which was set up by the Government of India under Section 3 of the Export (Quality Control and Inspection) Act, 1963 (22 of 1963).

The council was established in order to ensure sound development of export trade of India through Quality Control and Inspection. Accordingly, the EIC functions as an advisory body to the Central Government, which is empowered under the Act to notify commodities which will be subject to quality control and/or inspection prior to export, establish standards of quality for such notified commodities, and specify the type of quality control and/or inspection to be applied to such commodities.

In response, Chairman, Export Development Board (EDB), Bandula Egodage stated that there were inspection mechanisms in place which were recognized by certain countries. He pointed out that the EDB was working on the National Organic Control Unit (NOCU) which was one such mechanism that would address the issue of the acceptance of Sri Lanka’s inspection process. He stated that it would provide a third party certification, which would have a wider recognition and cut down exportation costs.

However, Dr. de Silva pointed out that there was no point in establishing numerous agencies if they were not doing their jobs. “If our fruit inspection process is not accepted in Chennai, then you have to do something about it,” he said.

Speaking further at the forum, the deputy minister pointed out the need for coordination between the country’s foreign policy and the economic policy. “We can’t be at cross purposes. If we are, then we have to bid farewell to our export sector,” he added.
The forum also saw the participation of the Director General of the Department of Commerce, Sonali Wijeratne who stated that Sri Lanka could not adopt an inclusive approach when going for Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with countries.

She also pointed out that discussions pertaining to the Sri Lanka-China FTA were still ongoing and a final decision was yet to be reached. She stated that the department has outsourced certain experts to identify the products that could be exported or traded between both countries. “There is more to be negotiated on this agreement,” she said.

Pics by Gihan Alwis