Sri Lanka deepening trade agreements, exploring China FTA: Malik

Jan 29, 2016 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is deepening its free trade agreements with India and Pakistan, and negotiating an FTA with China, Malik Samarawickrama, minister of development strategies and international trade, said.

“PM Modi’s ‘Make in India’ strategy will create opportunities for linking into new and expanding value chains in domestic as well as multinational companies operating in India,” Samarawickrama said.

He was speaking at the Invest in East 2016 International Investment Promotion Forum.

“In order to take advantage of these changes in the overall landscape, which have improved the prospects for capitalizing on our proximity to India, we are planning to deepen and widen bilateral relations through the Indo – Lanka Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement.”

The intention is to sign the agreement by mid-2016, he said.

Sri Lanka is also deepening the FTA with Pakistan and negotiating a FTA with China, he added.

“With preferential access to both the Indian and Pakistani markets, Sri Lanka can act as a bridge for investors from both countries to penetrate each other’s markets.”

“Indian investors, who wish to have preferential access to Central Asia can also locate in Sri Lanka and have access to those markets through Pakistan, which has a regional cooperation agreement with those countries.”

The agreements with China, India and Pakistan will give Sri Lanka preferential access to a market of almost 3 billion people. One could argue that this is our ‘Unique Selling Point,’ he said.

Merits of seeking to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is also being explored, while priority has been attached to lifting the EU fisheries ban and the restoration of GSP+.

“We are making encouraging progress on these fronts. Our government is very conscious that we need development, which is inclusive and regionally balanced for it to be sustainable and touch the lives of all our people.”

The Western region megapolis programme will be supplemented by a regionally balanced urban upliftment program, he said. This will be centered on five second-tier cities around the country.

“We also have plans for 45 new Industrial Parks around the country, which will be developed and managed by the private sector.”

“In the Eastern Province, a Master Plan is being developed for Trincomalee. It will include an economic zone, a tourist area and development around one of the great natural harbours of the world. Plans are already on the way to build two power plants and an economic zone.”

“In addition, developments around the Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport also provide opportunities for investment in light and heavy engineering; logistics and airline maintenance, repair and overhaul.”

Sri Lanka has enormous potential as a tourism destination, he added. Other areas, which have significant potential include high value added apparel, value added and blended tea, rubber gloves, rubber tyres, ICT-BPM, shipping and logistics and minerals, particularly, silica and quartz, Samarawickrama said.