Sri Lanka is gearing up for the 12th round of negotiations on the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India, as announced by the President’s Media Division (PMD). The two countries have already engaged in 11 rounds of bilateral talks from 2016 to 2019, aiming to expand and deepen the existing India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA).
The ETCA is set to have a broader scope than the current ISFTA, emphasizing the deepening economic ties between the two nations. The Sri Lankan government is focusing on two pivotal components: enhancing supply capacity and broadening market access as part of its multifaceted growth strategy designed to drive economic recovery.
In its pursuit of economic recovery, Sri Lanka is not only strengthening ties with its major traditional export destinations like the USA and the EU/UK but also actively integrating with regions in South Asia, South East Asia, and East Asia.
This multifaceted approach includes negotiations and execution of bilateral trade agreements. Currently, Sri Lanka has bilateral trade agreements with key South Asian partners, such as India and Pakistan, primarily focused on trade in goods. Sri Lanka also benefits from access to South Asian markets through regional trading agreements like the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and the SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA).
Sri Lanka is actively involved in Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) negotiations with Bangladesh, concentrating on trade in goods. These negotiations, initiated in June 2021, have already seen three rounds of discussions, with both countries preparing their initial offer lists for subsequent rounds.
Sri Lanka’s engagement with ASEAN countries is expanding through Free Trade Agreements. The country has a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Singapore, with ongoing negotiations with other ASEAN countries like Thailand and Indonesia.
Furthermore, Sri Lanka is in discussions with China to resume negotiations for a proposed FTA. Six rounds of negotiations have already taken place, focusing on gaining market access for selected Sri Lankan products in China and establishing links to global value chains.
Sri Lanka is also making strides in establishing an economic integration program with ASEAN, Oceania, and East Asia by joining the world’s largest Free Trade Agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, underscoring its commitment to global economic integration.
All of these trade negotiations fall under the purview of the Cabinet-appointed National Trade Negotiation Committee (NTNC), led by the Chief Negotiator of the Office of International Trade under the Presidential Secretariat. The NTNC is supported by eleven subcommittees representing various ministries and departments, facilitating negotiations and stakeholder engagements.