- No Mode 4 in ETCA with India: Minister Malik
- Planned FTAs and GSP+ to revive exports
- National Trade policy to be formulated by end of August
Sri Lanka is planning to hold discussions on expanding bilateral trade with China, India and Singapore in the month of August and hope to seal the three trade pacts by the end of this year or early next year, a top government Minister said last week. Addressing a media conference, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama said that the first set of negotiations are scheduled to be held with China next week, with India the week after and with Singapore, by the end of August.
“The scope and the bas is for negotiations pertaining to the comprehensive trade agreements have been formulated. As the government we can assure that it will be a very transparent and a highly consultative process we would follow in order to achieve a beneficial deal for Sri Lanka,” Samarawickrama said pledging that the Trade Ministry will present the final agreements to Parliament for approval, at least one month before the pacts are signed.
He said the basis of the recent street protests staged by a certain section of the public, opposing the upcoming trade pact with India, was highly misleading and unnecessary, given that the upcoming Indo-Sri Lanka Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) will not contain the clause that enables physical movement of persons (MODE FOUR). Further, he noted that discussions on ETCA will only move forward after resolving existing bi-lateral trade issues under the existing Indo-Sri Lanka FTA.
“The aim of the proposed free trade deals with India, China and Singapore is to get duty free access and expand markets for Sri Lankan businesses. The first working draft of Sri Lanka’s version of the proposed ETCA had been given to business chambers and professionals organisations to get their views,” he told the news conference.
Samarawickrema said if these three agreements which capture a market of three billion people are sealed and the EU GSP plus restored in about six months, this could in effect be Sri Lanka’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to rejuvenate exports and attract FDIs.
On the other hand, the Minister noted that a National Trade Policy Framework focusing on reducing the anti-export bias in the policies is currently being formulated by an Independent Committee comprising trade specialists who have both local and international exposure in trade related matters. The team, which also includes a researcher, representatives from the Central Bank, Finance Ministry and the Department of Commerce, are expected to finalize the trade policy by end of August 2016.