By Nishel Fernando
Sri Lanka plans to hold ministerial level talks with the Chinese government this November to resume negotiations on the proposed China-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
“We are hoping to meet them (the Chinese) in November. We will take it from there; we are quite hopeful that negotiations will start soon,” Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama told Mirror Business on the sidelines of the ‘Top German Brands Sri Lanka’ relaunch organised by German Industry and Commerce in Sri Lanka (AHK Sri Lanka).
The FTA negotiations between two countries had been stalled due to several disagreements between the two parties. Sri Lankan negotiators had 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. Meanwhile, speaking on the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India, Samarawickrama said that negotiations would conclude by end of this year or early next year. The 11th round of ETCA negations is scheduled to commence in the first week of October. The minister highlighted that the agreement would be tabled in parliament prior to its signing, though it’s not a legal requirement.
Sri Lanka is also expected to commence a joint feasibility study with Indonesia to explore the potential for a FTA between two countries. Commenting on the committee appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena to study the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA), Samarawickrama said: “If anyone who can show us specifically which clause is harmful to the country, we will certainly look at that. However, so far nobody has done that.” Speaking of investments, the minister revealed that the Board of Investment (BOI) has approved investment projects worth US $1.6 billion up to July this year.
BOI is also expected to carry out several investment promotion activities, including Germany this year, to attract more foreign investments to the country.
Samarawickrama said an investment promotional programme would be kicked off in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Berlin coordinated by AHK Sri Lanka between 24 to 26th this month to promote investments into Sri Lanka.
He was confident that FDI flows to Sri Lanka would reach US$ 2.5 billion this year to meet the government’s target.