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Malik Samarawickrama

Sri Lanka’s Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama and India’s Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman have urged their officials to expedite negotiations on the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA). In New Delhi early this week,
Samarawickrama also said talks on trade pacts with China and Pakistan, as with India, would be completed by the middle of next year.

A delegation from India is to visit Colombo this month-end.

India, accounting for 23 per cent ($ 4,268 million in 2015) of Sri Lanka’s total imports, has been negotiating with the island nation on the ETCA, an extension over the existing Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Last year, exports to India accounted for a little over six per cent of Sri Lanka’s overall exports with $ 643 million. Of this, 63 per cent was under the FTA.

The first round of bilateral talks on the ETCA began in December last. Even as certain sections in Sri Lanka nurse reservations, the government in recent months had organised a campaign to counter the anti-ETCA drive.

Though Colombo depends upon Beijing for 20 per cent of its imports, there is no bilateral FTA. The two are yet to finalise the rules of origin and the product list. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who begins his three-day visit to Sri Lanka on Friday, is expected to discuss the FTA, apart from other topics including industrial capacity, trade and investment.

Under the FTA with Pakistan, signed in July 2002, Sri Lanka exported goods worth $ 59 million to the former last year, which was about 81 per cent of the total exports to that country. Colombo exports tea, copra and rubber to Pakistan, and imports cement, textiles and pharmaceuticals from Islamabad. (The Hindu)