Sri Lanka, China to close free-trade deal: Colombo

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (L) and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe gesture as Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake (unseen) presents a supplementary budget to parliament, marking the first economic policy statement of the new government which came to power earlier in the month in Colombo on January 29, 2015. Sri Lanka's new government announced hefty taxes on top companies in a bid to raise revenue, accusing the previous regime of fudging the figures and leaving the economy in a "sad state". AFP PHOTO / Ishara S. KODIKARA (Photo credit should read Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

COLOMBO, September 17, 2013 (AFP) – Sri Lanka and China will finalise a free-trade agreement ahead of a Commonwealth summit in Colombo in November, a government minister said on Tuesday. Sri Lanka entered into a controversial free-trade agreement with neighbouring India in December 1998 during Sri Lanka’s bloody separatist conflict, but both sides have been bickering since over non-tariff barriers. The two sides have been hammering out details of the duty-free goods under the deal, Investment Promotion Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told reporters in Colombo.

China has been investing heavily in Sri Lanka, with loans and expertise instrumental in building ports, highways, railways and power plants in the Indian Ocean nation.

“We are discussing the agreement right now and we hope to be able to finalise it before the Commonwealth meeting,” Abeywardena said, adding that a Chinese delegation had been in the Sri Lankan capital recently to discuss the deal.

Sri Lanka will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting from November 15 to 17.

Although China will not take part, Sri Lanka is keen to showcase its economic progress since the end of nearly four decades of et