Full steam ahead for three FTA agreements including ETCA | Sunday Observer

Full steam ahead for three FTA agreements including ETCA

4 December, 2016

A trade delegation from Sri Lanka led by Minister for Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama will undertake a three-day official visit to Singapore this month to sign a series of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) to enhance trade flows and provide increased market access for Sri Lankan and Singaporean companies.

A former Director General of the Commerce Department and a trade advisor, K. J. Weerasinghe told the Sunday Observer that the delegation would be in Singapore on the 13th, 14th and 15th of this month.

“The trade talks will look at signing a comprehensive FTA agreement looking at service and investments.”

Earlier this year in July, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe along with Singaporean Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran launched negotiations for a Sri Lanka – Singapore (SLSFTA). Commenting on the agreement Minister Iswaran said that “amidst uncertain economic environment, Sri Lanka offered a good potential for Singapore companies looking to tap opportunities in new markets and that Singaporean companies with capabilities in many sectors can partner Sri Lankan companies and contribute to Sri Lanka’s growth.”

In 2015, Singapore’s exports to Sri Lanka totaled S$1.9 billion, while Singapore’s imports from Sri Lanka totaled $146 million. Sri Lanka was Singapore’s 29th largest export destination in 2015. An FTA will provide Sri Lanka duty free access to Singapore and vice versa for almost all goods — bilateral trade between the two countries can be expected to expand from the current level of just over US$ 1 bn.

In recent years, Sri Lanka has lagged behind in pursuing FTA in comparisons to neighboring South Asian Countries according to a report by the Institute of Policy Studies. Sri Lanka has only four trade agreements at present while Singapore has 21 bilateral and regional FTA.

The Sri Lankan government over the past few months has expressed its keen interest to finalize three more FTA, with India, Singapore and China before March 2017. Weerasinghe told the Sunday Observer that the government was keen on meeting Indian counterparts to make progress over the proposed ETCA but both countries have not been able to agree on a convenient date.

“The agreements are still on track, it’s just that we’ve not been able to agree on a date as yet. We are keen to see that we meet sometime this month, if not certainly during the first week of January next year,” he said.

Based on the proposed timeline, the Government hopes to conclude discussions with India and Singapore by December 2016 while the FTA with China could be signed as early as the first quarter of next year.