By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW): The Chief Negotiators of Sri Lanka and India held talks to resume Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) negotiations years after it was stopped following political-led opposition in 2016.
“The Chief Negotiators of Sri Lanka and India recently held a virtual meeting on September 19th to discuss the resumption of Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) negotiations,” the President’s Media Division said in a statement.
“This marks the continuation of talks after 11 previous rounds of negotiations.”
Both South Asian neighbour already have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in place with India is earning more foreign exchange in the trade.
Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa-led nationalist Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party and some of professional bodies backing the party opposed the ETCA when it was scheduled to be signed.Later, the signing was postponed, but never took place.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe is backed by the SLPP after mass protested against the party and Rajapaksa family members forced them out of the offices.
Analysts say ETCA was used for political mileage by SLPP triggering an anti-Indian sentiment when it was the opposition without properly assessing its threats and opportunities.
The SLPP-led government under ousted president Gotabaya Rajapaksa also unilaterally suspended an FTA signed with Singapore, citing that it was a threat for Sri Lanka’s service.
Data, however, show Sri Lanka has gained from the FTA with India.India was Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner with an overall bilateral merchandise trade of $ 5.45 billion in 2021.
Sri Lankan exports to India have increased since 2000 when the FTA came into force.
he Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is to be upgraded to an Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement (ECTA).
President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that ECTA is essential as India is going to be the next growth center and will trigger off growth in South Asia.
“We are just 22 miles away and we have to work especially to ensure that the synergies of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu are brought together,” the President said.
He said that Sri Lanka aims to achieve a significant development goal in the next 25 years by working alongside other countries in the Indian Ocean and South Asia.
President Wickremesinghe said that as a small country with a strong democratic tradition and an open economy, Sri Lanka has always maintained its political independence and viewed India, its closest neighbor with the longest relations, as the protector of the region.
The President also highlighted Sri Lanka’s role in building a new economy by collaborating with the development of the Asian region and India, moving away from the old economy.
He suggested that the free trade agreement with India should be elevated to an economic cooperation and technical agreement and expressed his willingness to enter into an agreement with the largest trade group in Asia, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which would allow Sri Lanka to continue trading with the largest trade group in the world.
President Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka’s access to the growing Indian and African markets should not be disrupted by any big power rivalry or conflict.