The Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) has refuted the recent assertions of Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama on the benefits of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) pursued by the Government.
OPA, in a statement, said that having noted the contents of the press release by Minister Malik Samarawickrama (http://www.ft.lk/business/Malik-refutes-professionals-association-s-ETCA-concerns/34-652701) refuting the claims by the professionals that Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) signed by the Government had not been preceded by stakeholder consultations, it wished to state that:
1. There were no professional stakeholder consultations with specific time schedules, with proper consultation process and procedures except a few haphazardly convened meetings, without any progress review or acknowledgment of voluntary contribution by stakeholders. The government negotiating team comprising the Secretary and Officials of Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade (MODSIT) and its advisors including the Attorney General, where they claimed to have been appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers, had no mechanism whatsoever for stakeholder consultations as prescribed by the Word Trade Organization (WTO).
2. Until the professionals led by the OPA submitted a comprehensive 44-page report, titled ‘Way forward for Trade Liberalization’, detailing the domestic legal framework that should be in place before commencing negotiations with any country to liberalise trade in services, the ministerial team had no clue about the necessity of having a domestic regulatory framework.
3. During the short period of consultations, the MODSIT team had no logistics for scheduling the meetings, recording the proceedings and taking follow-up action. Further, MODSIT had failed to date to produce a comprehensive set of minutes to all stakeholder professional groups.
4. It should also be noted that the MODSIT had to date failed to submit at least a single draft legal document listed in the OPA report, which is a clear indication of technical incapability of the MODIST. It is sad to note that all professionals offered their inputs voluntarily, but the MODSIT had failed to use the invaluable voluntary contribution by the professionals.
Given the above, the OPA categorically refutes the position considered by the Minister.
OPA is the umbrella organisation for 48 professional associations in Sri Lanka that represent 33 professions and over 50,000 professionals in the country.