Sri Lanka allays private sector fears over trade deals

Mar 30, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s government recognises private sector fears of non-tariff barriers in bilateral trade deals and will not open up the economy against its wishes, a senior minister said. The free trade deal with India, for instance, recognised the asymmetric character of the economic ties between the two countries given their differences in size, with the island being given more time than its big neighbour to open up her economy.

Trade was shifting from commodities to services which is the most rapidly growing segment of south Asia economies, Peiris said.

But any movement in opening up the services sector of the island economy must be with the fullest support of the private sector,” he said.

“The support must emerge spontaneously. It cannot be an imposition by the government”

Peiris noted that there were “significant reservations” on the part of the private sector, represented by business chambers, on further opening up the economy, especially in services.

“We understand the motivations underpinning these reservations,” Peiris said.

“The fundamental factor has to do with non-tariff barriers. When it comes to implementation, the devil is in the detail. The