Sri Lanka to pursue CEPA only if advantageous to us: Minister

Apr 30, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka will go ahead and sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India only if it is deemed beneficial to us, Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister of policy planning and economic development said.

“We have to be convinced that this agreement is beneficial to Sri Lanka. I don’t represent the government of India, I am representing the government of Sri Lanka,” the Minister said.

“We will win for this country and therefore our government will not enter into any agreement that is not in the best interest of our country.”

The deputy Minister was speaking at seminar on CEPA and its implications on the Sri Lankan economy, organized by the Nation Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka in Colombo, Wednesday.

De Silva says the new government’s intention is to give a lot of priority to trade and exports competiveness and that this will be the way forward for the Sri Lankan economy.

“The new government is for trade and we want to make Sri Lanka a more completive country in these parts of the world,”

“Our intention is to formulate policy to do this, unless of course if we are not around after the upcoming election,”

“We can’t have double digit growth in the next 10 years if our exports don’t perform well.”

Protecting our industry is alright but you can’t do it open-ended and then what will happen if they become less competitive, de Silva said.

“We have to think forward in these matters not backwards, I am not going to be influenced by those who are for and against CEPA,”

“I think we need to understand that there are issues that affect everyone who has an opinion in this matter,”

“As a policy maker I have to be balanced and go beyond my personal views, we need to be balanced to come up with plans for this country.”

Sri Lanka’s Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India has had concerns often expressed that a combination of political interference, vested private sector interests and lack of capacity constrain and the ability of Sri Lankan negotiators with pursuing the country’s objectives effectively in trade negotiations, particularly with a country as large as India.

A more transparent process, which involves key stakeholders and mobilizes technical expertise, both within and outside the government, can increase Sri Lanka’s capability to achieve favorable outcomes which are beneficial to the country and its people through effective negotiations.