ETCA Talks to be finalised by early 2019 | Sunday Observer

ETCA Talks to be finalised by early 2019

Consultations with stakeholders on contentious issue of service sector liberalisation next week:

The ongoing negotiations on Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) is expected to be finalized by the end of this year or early next year following three more rounds of discussions, Sri Lanka’s Chief Negotiator K.J. Weerasinghe told the Sunday Observer yesterday. According to Weerasinghe, plans are afoot to meet with professional Associations next week to discuss aspects on service liberalization in the proposed agreement which seeks to deepen the current Free Trade Agreeement in goods with India and include services and investment.“We want this to be an inclusive process. The policy of this government is that we have consultations with all the stakeholders at every stage of discussions.

“Even before the last round, we met all representatives of the trade chambers and invited the 17 Advisory Councils under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce under the product sectors. Todate, we have obtained the views of 43 trade chamber representatives, product associations and advisory councils,” said Weerasinghe, who is also the Consultant to the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade.According to sources, the tenth round of negotiations on ETCA concluded in New Delhi early this month while the next round of talks is expected to be held either end September or the first week of October.

“One of the major objectives of the negotiation is the removal of the current 8 million quota on apparel. Those are the important issues we are pursuing. At the last meeting it was agreed to strengthen the linkages between the cross-country apparel industries so that we can boost production and marketing,” the chief negotiator highlighted.Explaining the progress of negotiations of the nine committees under discussion, Weerasinghe said that while discussions on the Customs Cooperation and Trade Facilitation Chapter concluded during the ninth round of talks, the topic on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade, is also nearing finalization.

“We have also finalized the draft text on the establishment of a structured institutional mechanism which will address day to day operational issues of exporters. “On the aspect of service sector liberalization, we have maintained our stance very clearly that Sri Lanka is not ready and will not open up independent movement of professionals. Throughout our discussions, we have been absolutely clear about this and are maintaining this position. So opening doors for medical professionals, architects, accountants or engineers etc is completely out,” the Chief negotiator declared. Speaking on liberalization of goods, Weerasinghe said they are presently in consultation with stakeholders like trade chambers and product associations to identify items that are of export interest to Sri Lanka so that tariff barriers could be removed. On the other hand, he said they have requested trade members to also provide information on items that Sri Lanka cannot export they were on the Indian negative list.

“But, their demands for have to be very rational. They have to explain the employment generation, contribution to the economy, whether it has potential exports, there is a domestic industry etc. Simply because someone says don’t remove, we wont do that,” he said adding that since Free Trade Agreements are for liberalization applicable to both sides, one needs to strike the right balance.

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