The recent announcement by Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama on the formulation of a National Policy on International Trade was commended by the International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka as a step in the right direction.
According to Minister Samarawickrama, a national policy on international trade will be formulated before August and will be submitted for Parliament approval. He further said that Sri Lanka did not have a national policy on international trade and therefore formulation of a national policy also was needed to be done concurrent to signing the comprehensive trade agreements with India, China and Singapore. He also stated that the Government plans to sign all the three FTAs with India, China and Singapore by the first quarter of 2017.
The International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka National Council of International Chamber of Commerce Paris, based on the experiences of other countries, has stressed upon the importance of formulating a broad national policy and guidelines prior to implementing any country specific Trade Agreements. In this connection, ICC Sri Lanka recently shared the globally accepted guidelines and policies on Foreign Direct Investments with the Government.
Currently, with particular reference to the proposed ETCA agreement with India and other FTAs proposed, the business community, professionals and many other stakeholders cast many doubts and fears mainly due to Sri Lanka’s absence of a broader and clear National Policy on International Trade. ICC Sri Lanka is of the strong view that formulating such a policy and moving forward on any Free Trade Agreement will not only help alleviating unnecessary social fears and concerns but will also add to the economic and business returns as transparency and predictability will be ensured by such a move.
ICC Sri Lanka also recognises the strong need and importance of actively persuading the proposed FTAs and believe that with preferential access to both India and China, Sri Lanka will be well-placed to act as a bridge for investors seeking to penetrate into the Chinese market on a preferential basis. The FTA with Pakistan also provides an opportunity for Indian investors to access that market on a preferential basis by re-locating in Sri Lanka. There is also the possibility of re-directing some of the Indo-Pakistan trade currently transiting through Dubai. The FTAs with India, China Pakistan will give companies located in Sri Lanka preferential access to a market of about three billion people. In this context, ICC Sri Lanka also hails the Government in its consistent effort in securing the EU GSP+ concessions which will further bolster Sri Lanka’s competitiveness in global investment and business indices.
ICC Sri Lanka also noted with appreciation the comment made by Minister Samarawickrama that the scope and basis for negotiations pertaining to the comprehensive trade agreements had already been formulated. It also noted the assurance made by Minister Faiszer Mustapha that the Government will not allow professionals from overseas to enter the Lankan labour market under any FTAs but will only get the required professional skills through technological transfers.
He had further said that there was nothing to fear in FTAs as once they are finalised it will be forwarded to Parliament one month prior to being singed. ICC Sri Lanka urge the government to share the proposed policy documents already drafted with all other stakeholders and ensure a wider dialog and broader consensus before forwarding them for Parliamentary approvals.
ICC Sri Lanka, while recognising the efforts of the Government in introducing a national policy framework as a prelude to signing of FTAs, also believes the statements made by the responsible Ministers in the Government will also help clearing doubts and fears in that regard.