Sri Lankans seen deprived of free trade benefits by protectionist lobby

Sept 01, 2010 (LBO) – Protectionist lobbies holding up a new free trade deal with India are putting Sri Lanka at risk of being left out of emerging regional trade blocs and depriving consumers the benefits of free trade, an official said. “Sri Lanka is rather insignificant in the larger calculations of world powers except for India.” Rohan Samarajiva, chairman of Lirne Asia, a regional think tank, said liberalisation of trade which was opposed by protectionists, could harm some firms in the short term but benefit a larger number of consumers in the long run.

The recent global recession might give rise to protectionism in Western economies as they strive to protect jobs, he said in a presentation on trade policy in the aftermath of the recession to the Sri Lanka Ceramics Council.

But the rise of Asia as a growth centre presents opportunities for countries like Sri Lanka, especially at a time when traditional Western markets for exports were shrinking or growing only slowly.

Talks on Asian regional trading arrangements could lead to the emergence of a trade bloc that could rival that of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Union, although the degree of integration was not the same, Samarajiva said.

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