The Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama will visit China next month to hold ministerial level discussions to resume negotiations in connection to the proposed Sri Lanka-China FTA.
Speaking to Mirror Business on the sidelines of the inauguration of the First German Pavilion at Build SL 2019 exhibition at BMICH last Friday, he said that he is planning to hold discussions with top Chinese government officials to resume FTA negations between the two countries as early as possible. However, as Chinese government officials are currently occupied with negotiations to reach a settlement with the United States over the trade war that has erupted between two countries, there could be possible delays in resuming FTA negotiators between Sri Lanka and China.
The FTA negotiations between two countries had been stalled due to several disagreements between the two parties. Sri Lankan negotiators had earlier proposed to liberalise 90 percent of tariff lines in a phased out manner over a 20-year period. However, Chinese officials had insisted on outright liberalisation of tariff lines between the two countries. Also, China had objected the inclusion of a review clause to reassess the FTA after 10 years.
Samarawickrama was originally planning to visit China last November. However, he was forced to postpone the visit due to the political crisis that erupted in the country.
The China Daily early this year quoted the Sri Lankan Embassy in China saying that the FTA between Sri Lanka and China could be signed this year.
Meanwhile, the Minister hopes that Sri Lanka’s proposed new FTA negotiation team led by Director General of Department of Commerce (DoC) Sonali Wijeratne will receive Cabinet approval in two weeks.
“We have submitted a Cabinet paper to appoint a new FTA negotiation team, and it will be approved by the Cabinet in a couple of weeks. We have recommended the Director General of Department of Commerce (DoC) Sonali Wijeratne to lead the FTA negotiation team,” he said.
Speaking on the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India, he said the negotiations between the two countries might be pushed off to end of May, as the Indian General Elections will be held between 11th of April to 19th of May this year.
“We may have to wait until the Indian elections are over,” he stressed.
The negotiators of Sri Lanka and India have already completed 11 rounds of ETCA negotiations.
Meanwhile, government sources said that the next round of negotiations for the proposed FTA between Thailand and Sri Lanka could begin as early as next month. (NF)