FTAs, an opportunity to increase trade and investment | Sunday Observer

FTAs, an opportunity to increase trade and investment

The government took all aspects of the global market into account, when signing the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA), Minister of Science, Technology and Research, Sujeeva Senasinghe told the Business Observer.

He said the SLSFTA is an ideal opportunity to open up the economy, for trade and investments, to the world and benefit from the transfer of technology which is vital to boost local industries.

“We must be prepared for change and be competitive if we are to forge ahead in trade in the global market which is highly demanding. Countries that have entered into FTAs and opened the economy have excelled in trade. Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore are examples of boom in trade and investments,” Senasinghe said.

The SLSFTA has come under heavy criticism since the signing of the agreement early last year. Professionals have been up in arms over the signing of the agreement which they believe will result in local industries being absorbed by foreign multinationals.

The implementation of the SLSFTA has been put on hold due to strong opposition and professionals seeking legal recourse to annul it.

Media spokesman for the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) Dr. Samantha Ananda said the GMOA has raised its voice against the SLSFTA based on facts.

“As professionals it is our duty to educate and intervene if the country is heading towards trouble. Many professional organisations including the GMOA have highlighted the dangers the country will have to face economically and politically in the future, if the agreement is implemented.”

“The high profile presidential expert committee has endorsed the facts we raised saying that the agreement does more harm than good to the country.

The committee had said that the discussions on the agreement have been carried out without a mandate and approval from the Cabinet. The expert committee has recommended that the prime need is to formulate a proper National trade policy, a long-felt need, before entering into such trade agreements.

“Therefore, the GMOA believes that the SLSFTA has no legal validity and it should be abolished and trade agreements should be based on a properly formulated national trade policy,” Dr. Ananda said.

Trade experts and economists on the other hand have made it clear that inward looking, populist, protectionist policies adopted by certain countries will not augur well for global trade and in particular for a country such as Sri Lanka with limited resources and trade potential.

“We need global integration and greater liberalisation of the economy to benefit from trade and investment. Staunch socialist countries such as China and Cuba have realised the value of opening the country for trade and investments,” Sri Lanka Economic Association President Dr. Upananda Vidanapathirana said.