July 22, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lankan proponents of a new trade and investment treaty with India say the island should go ahead with the deal as it gives access to a fast-growing economy with a huge market. Mano Selvanathan, president of the Indo-Lanka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says safeguards built into the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) should take care of concerns of Sri Lankan businesses and professionals.
The government has said it would not sign the deal during the south Asian leaders summit early next month, as planned, after industrialists and professional associations called for more talks to allay their fears.
Businesses and professionals say they have not been consulted enough and that they fear being swamped by Indian companies and professionals if investments and services are liberalised as envisaged in CEPA.
They also fear India would block access for Sri Lanka’s own companies and the professionals into the Indian market as happened with the existing free trade deal between the two neighbours.
But Selvanathan, whose firms have invested in India and south-east Asia, said both sides would only stand to benefit from CEPA.