Sri Lanka has completed five rounds of negotiations with both India and Singapore on the respective trade pacts, as part of the country’s efforts to become a hub in the Indian Ocean, Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama said.
“The fifth round of negotiations with India on the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) was conducted in Colombo two weeks ago,” he said.
According to him, the ETCA can increase Sri Lanka’s competitiveness and will see the quotas on pepper and apparel exports to India being relaxed.
“In addition, the ETCA is addressing the outstanding non-tariff barriers in the Indian market as well as many of the existing procedural barriers and delays in Indian ports of entry, through Mutual Recognition Agreements. This will particularly benefit the exporters of perishable items such as fruits, vegetables and fish,” he said.
Samarawickrama also said that five rounds of negotiations have been completed with Singapore on the free trade agreement.
“In addition, to typical goods chapters we have also included investment and services chapters comprising government procurement, financial service, telecom and ecommerce. For Singapore, we are particularly focused on encouraging Singaporean investment into Sri Lanka and new concepts such as remanufacturing industries,” he said.
He noted that following the signing of free trade agreements (FTAs) with Singapore and China, the government would negotiate FTAs with Bangladesh and Thailand. Enhancing the FTA with Pakistan is also in the cards, according to Samarawickrama.
He said that this network of FTAs would allow these countries to reroute their supply chains through Sri Lanka, such as in the case of Indo-Pakistan trade, which currently takes place through Dubai.
Samarawickrama also said that the government is attempting to exploit the potential of Sri Lanka to become a hub in the Indian Ocean for logistics, finance and other services such as research and development, marketing and designing.
According to both government and non-government agencies, Sri Lanka is already a hub, although in more notorious services such as trafficking in drugs and other illegal and dangerous products.