Sri Lanka’s government will have a national trade policy followed by an international trade secretariat by August this year to fast track the highly controversial trade and services pact with India, which is scheduled to be signed before the end of the year, according to a Deputy Minister. According to Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva, the government has allocated a slot for the critics of the Economic and Technology Cooperative Agreement (ETCA) to sit on the negotiation table but confided they could muster the support of all.
“Minister Malik Samarawickrama has already made an official announcement that by August we will have a national trade policy. An international trade secretariat—an agency—will also be in place,” Dr. de Silva said at a recent business forum held in Colombo. Samarawickrama, the Development Strategies and International Trade Minister, since being appointed to the post, had made several visits to India to expedite the agreement between the two countries. A number of professional groups have expressed their concern over the ETCA despite the government’s repeated claims that the pact would allow Indian workers in Sri Lanka only into selected sectors.
They charge that the trade and services pact would open flood gates and a lot of Sri Lankan professionals are set to lose their jobs. Dr. de Silva rubbishing these fears as completely unfounded said the government would go ahead and sign the agreement with India as it is the right thing to do and Sri Lanka’s economic prosperity largely hinges on its relationship with India – the world’s fastest growing economy
Dr. de Silva further said they had made the process as transparent as possible by even allotting a slot for the critics of the ETCA in the negotiating table. “We have already promised a slot in the negotiating team for the professionals and this is as transparent as it can get,” he remarked.