The Joint Opposition yesterday charged that the proposed economic agreement between Sri Lanka and India would lead to many future agreements such as the previously abandoned Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
Issuing a statement, it said in reality the government was intending to sign an Economic and Technical Cooperation Framework Agreement (ETCFA) which only sets a ‘framework’ for future agreements instead of an Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA).
It said the agreements that were to be entered into later under the framework of the ETCFA included an agreement on trade in goods, an agreement on trade in services and an agreement on investment - the same components that made up the old CEPA.
“The difference this time is that the ETCFA does not have specific provisions relating to any of these areas and the specifics are to be worked out only after the ETCFA is signed,” it said.
The statement, signed by MP Udaya Gammanpila on behalf of joint opposition leader MP Dinesh Gunawardane, said the government has already started opening the country up to Indian service providers while the proposed ETCFA is still pending.
“The Prime Minister presented a cabinet paper on the setting up of an Ambulance service by GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (GVK EMRI) of India. The cabinet paper does not explain why an Indian organisation should establish an ambulance service in Sri Lanka when there are many government, private and NGO ambulance services in Sri Lanka,” it said.
MP Gammanpila said an economic and technical pact with India will make sense if Sri Lanka can obtain from India some technical or economic input which Sri Lanka cannot provide for itself such as for example in the automotive, chemical or pharmaceutical industries.
“However, the present government seems to be intent on handing over to the Indians what can easily be done by locals. It is very unusual for a Prime Minister to put forward cabinet papers relating to a matter like an ambulance service and this shows the level at which this foreignisation is being spearheaded,” he said.
The joint opposition called upon the Sri Lankan business community, professionals, and the general public to oppose this foreignisation of the Sri Lankan economy by surreptitious means through executive fiat and the proposed ETCFA which is vague and has no specific provisions.