Respected shipping industry veteran Rohan Maskorala last week expressed his dismay about government stakeholders representing relevant authorities not attending a recent event organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Colombo to educate the private sector about the Global Alliance for Trade and how it can be beneficial for Sri Lanka.

Maskorala said that the event by itself was a reflection of how much regard the state authorities have for the shipping and logistics industries which is central for developing the country as a trade hub in the region.

“There is a national facilitation committee that is meant to engage with the private sector and in consultation with the same, work to reform the existing red-tapes and make cross-border trader easier, quicker and less costly. Nobody from that so-called committee has attended this forum today. Nor have we had any consultations with the committee to see how we can make use of this opportunity before us,” he charged.

Commenting on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and how Sri Lanka could benefit from it, economist Subashini Abeyshinghe said that doing the needful in the regard of facilitating trade, specifically enabling e-payments, automation of processes and getting the basic infrastructure in place, is something that ‘we should have done yesterday’. ”Sri Lanka is falling behind in global indexes because there is much talk but little work done to make the country conducive and appealing for trade in the international context,” she said.

The forum was also participated by Vice President Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation Donia Hammami who called for the Lankan private sector enlistment in the venture. She said: “The Lankan business community has a key role since they know Sri Lankan situation best. As the private sector, you must make sure your voice is heard in this TFA efforts. This agenda is worth your time and effort. It’s a one time in life opportunity. The Sri Lankan TFA Secretariat will do the groundwork. Sri Lanka has notified Category A Commitments, but it needs to work on Category B & C Commitments. These categories need to be focused on. We await Sri Lanka’s confirmation in this.”

The biggest ever Public Private Partnership (PPP) effort in recent history to boost exports and promote trade, TFA provides a unique opportunity to promote inclusive growth by making cross-border trade more efficient. It is widely acknowledged that government-business cooperation can play a strategically important role in the implementation of trade facilitation reforms.

A recent WTO suggests that implementing TFA reforms could create around 20 million jobs – the vast majority in developing countries. The agreement will help developing countries diversify their exports and to tap into global value chains.