Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 25 September 2016





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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” Senasinghe said.

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 Minister added.

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.


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