Jul 26, 2016 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is currently at the formulating stage of Free Trade Agreements with China and Singapore and an “Economic Technology Cooperation Agreement” with India but these agreements will not lead to locals losing jobs, a minister said.
“The government will not consider Mode 4 of the general trade agreement on trade in services which allows professionals to provide a service in another country,” Malik Samarawickreme, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade, told media in Colombo Tuesday.
“We will not allow foreigners to be given jobs at the expense of Sri Lankan nationals.”
Professional associations raised concerns about the flow of professionals between the India and Sri Lanka, but he said there was no reason to fear an impact on employment.
“We have repeatedly told them and assured them during discussions that their jobs are not under threat but they don’t seem to accept this,” he said.
There is currently a procedure for granting visas to foreign workers.
“We will not change this. Visas are only granted if there is a shortage in our country,” he added.
“With the ETCA agreement we will seek to boost cooperation in technical areas, scientific expertise and research amongst institutions, boost standards of goods and services able to compete on the global market and improve opportunities for manpower training and human resource development.”
The Minister stressed that the ECTA process is very transparent and that a working draft of the agreement has been given to the local trade chambers.
“We will put this agreement to the Parliament and then anyone who has issues can bring it up and debate it.”
Sri Lanka is also in the process of formulating FTAs with India and China which will open up massive export markets for the island.
A Chinese trade delegation is due here next week while a Singaporean team is scheduled to visit before the end of the month.
“We went to get the best agreements, expand our export markets, and bring in new technology,” he said.
“The aim of the FTAs is to export as many products as possible from here into those markets duty free.”