Sri Lanka India new trade deal stuck in more negotiations

Dec 02, 2020 (LBO) – Sri Lanka has had 13 rounds of negotiations on a new trade deal with India and “certain sections” of the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) had not yet been concluded, a government minister has said. Sri Lanka started liberalizing trade in 1977. India had been Sri Lanka’s biggest trade partner for centuries.

The existing trade deal with India also has a large ‘negative list’ of 1,180 items put in place as a sop to Sri Lankan business interests, restricting the liberties of ordinary people, especially the poor.

According to available data a ‘negative list’ of 1,180 items protect Sri Lankan business and production interests. Sri Lanka is allowing 3,922 items on zero duty while India allows 4,383.

However there have been complaints from Sri Lankan businesses that India has non-tariff barriers. The new CEPA deal has rules and a mechanism to resolve such issues or new ones that may come up.

Negotiators have said that the new deal provides for bi-annual meetings at the level of Commerce Secretaries and annual meetings at the level of Commerce Ministers of the two countries to deal with unresolved issues.

In case the problems cannot be resolved at a government level, CEPA provides