Trade chambers appraised on ETCA
The government appraised the business chambers and professionals who were
pleased with the process of going ahead with the Economic and Technology
Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) to be signed with India in the near future, State
Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe said.
He said, there is absolutely no need for anyone to panic, as all international
trade agreements will be signed in a transparent manner, unlike the previous
government which used its iron fist to implement policies. “We are open to
discuss and iron out any issue. We had cordial discussions and several meetings
with trade chambers and professionals regarding the enormous potential for trade
and technology transfer under the ETCA. There is no need to fear with regard to
the service sector being wallowed up by India as speculated by critics”
He said,”all representatives of trade chamber and professional organizations
were pleased with the discussions held recently with Minister Malik
Samarawickrama and me. We clearly stated, the government will not explore the
service sector and their status quo will remain. The negative and positive lists
of the agreement were discussed at the meeting”. “We will try to gain maximum
benefits to the country through the goods sector, which will help create a major
market for Sri Lankan exports to a large country, such as, India. All chamber
officials and professionals have shown a keen interest on the agreement”,the
He said, a meeting between representatives of the Ministry of International
Trade, Ministry of Trade and Commerce, business chambers and Indian officials
will be held next month regarding the agreement.
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Samantha Ranatunga said, the chambers
collectively lobbied for open discussions with Ministers Sujeewa Senasinghe and
Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama,
and were given clear guidelines on who manages the process of the agreement, the
negative list and contact numbers of sub committees handling various sectors.
Information pertaining to the agreement was shared with all representatives of
the chambers at the meeting held on September 15.
‘The chambers were assured by the Ministers that there would be a collective
decision with regard to all international trade agreements which would be
carried out in a transparent manner.
There will be progress meetings every month on ETCA. It is up to the chambers
and institutions to submit their proposals and clear the issues with the
authorities” Ranatunga said.
However, trade experts and analysts have cautioned the government about the
dangers to domestic industries by opening the flood gates for Indian
professionals to enter the country and carry out businesses. Professionals
opposing the signing of the agreement want more transparency and discussions
with all stakeholders. They have called upon the government to make good use of
the free trade agreement with India, before embarking on another trade
agreement. Data reveals that over 70 percent of trade with India takes place
outside the free trade agreement. Sri Lanka’s exports to India increased from
US$ 35.3 million in 1999 to US$ 643 million in 2015 and trade between the two
countries increased to US$ 4.9 billion last year from US$ 56 million in 1991.
Discussions on ETCA are continuing between Sri Lanka and India.