President Ranil Wickremesinghe says that the Indo – Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement would be revived and upgraded into a comprehensive economic and technological partnership.
He pointed out Sri Lanka and India gradually have to wean themselves out of the barriers to investment and the non-tariff barriers to trade specially in relation to Sri Lanka-Indo economic relations.
He made these observations addressing the Sri Lanka India Society (SLIS) get together held at the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo on Thursday (15) evening to mark the 75th anniversary of independence of India.
“We will revive and upgrade the Free Trade Agreement into a comprehensive economic and technological partnership.”
“We started that in 2018 and 2019. Then I found recently that it has been stuck somewhere in the department of Commerce with a large number of committees. I didn’t know why it was necessary,” the President said.
He said that at that time, he had asked the then minister, Mr. Malik Samarawickrama to negotiate it, and that they didn’t have very many things. “So he abolished all the committees and he said at that time that he wants to see this done quickly at the highest political level.”
“But if Sri Lanka wants to develop its international trade, the country has to think differently,” he said, adding that therefore he has decided to establish an international trade office which will deal with all the international trade negotiations.
“According to discussions he had with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, first under the Ministry of Finance to set it up and when it is restructured, it will go in the future to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.”
President Wickremeisnghe said this is the first step that will pave the way and that it also means that they had to remove the red tape.
He added “We are looking at restructuring our institutions by having of looking at a separate ministry which will deal with ease of doing business competitiveness at the same time, to look forward to the different trade agreements that we will come to.”
He stressed that there is scope for Sri Lanka and India to get together and look at their different areas for instance, logistics, renewable energy, tourism, trade and information technology. “There are many, many areas in which we can work together and we should work together for the benefit of our two countries.”
“Secondly, we are looking at all the projects which India and Sri Lanka had agreed to, but unfortunately it had got delayed at the Sri Lankan end.”
“But amongst it we have our agreements on the Indian rupee being used here, which finally will enable Indian tourists to come in here and help Tourism.”