Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama says that Sri Lanka’s upcoming trade agreements with India, China and Pakistan could be the island’s Unique Selling Point (USP), as it will offer companies located here, preferential access to a market of about 3 billion people.

Addressing a forum held by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) during his recent visit to India, Minister Samarawickrama said that the comprehensive Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA), for which negotiations are underway, will open up new opportunities for Indian and other foreign investors to locate in Sri Lanka to access the markets of the fastest growing large economies in the world on a preferential basis.

“With preferential access to both India and China, Sri Lanka will be well-placed to act as a bridge for Indian investors seeking to penetrate the Chinese market on a preferential basis,” the Lankan Minister said noting that the intention of the ETCA is to deepen the current agreement in goods by reducing the negative list on the basis of less than full reciprocity and widen it to include services, investment, technology and training.

While encouraging Indian investors to participate in Sri Lanka’s development through the establishment and management of Industrial Zones, Samarawickrama said the FTA with Pakistan also provides an opportunity for Indian investors to access that market on a preferential basis by locating in Sri Lanka.

“Intuitively, there must be possibilities to re-direct some of the Indo – Pakistan trade currently transiting through Dubai,” he said.

The Minister also informed the Indian business community that Sri Lanka is currently negotiating a new comprehensive FTA with China and is also looking to invigorate its existing FTA with Pakistan “We are also about to launch negotiations on a FTA with Singapore and to initiate a five – year programme to boost trade and investment with the USA. In addition, possible FTA’s with South Korea, Malaysia and Turkey are in the pipeline,” he said.

Meanwhile, Samararawickrama said a new trade policy framework is being formulated which focuses on reducing the anti-export bias in Sri Lanka’s policies. He mentioned that para tariffs are being reviewed and the Central Bank will manage the exchange rate flexibly while avoiding high volatility.

“These reforms are being complemented by improved trade facilitation which will enable Sri Lanka to capitalize on its strategic geographic location and excellent port facilities to become a distribution and logistics hub,” he emphasized.