By Chathuri Dissanayake
The Sri Lanka – Singapore Free Trade Agreement is now in force despite a committee appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena to analyse the deal, State Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Dr. Harsha de Silva said, condemning attempts by the Opposition to create a “bogeyman” of the Singapore trade deal.
Speaking at a press conference held at the United National Party Head Quarters, Sirikotha, the State Minister said that, although the President has appointed a committee to analyse the trade agreement, the FTA, which was signed in March this year, is already in effect.
“The agreement was approved by the Cabinet, and the appointed committee will give its report, but it is in force now,” he said.
Refuting claims by the Opposition about plans by the Singapore Government to use Sri Lanka as a waste disposal ground, de Silva insisted that the country is protected by international treaties and regulations to control cross boundary movement of waste.
“We have protected our interests. There are regulations, such as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which we are signatory to. Custom duty is not the only way to prevent such issues. The law of the country prevails. There are quarantine laws and other non-tariff measures imposed to ensure this,” he said.
The State Minister, stressing the need to enter into trade agreements with different countries to penetrate trade networks, said that the country needs FTAs to enter global trade blocks to prevent being side-lined.
“By the end of the year, there will be a trade block formed called ‘Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership’ with all ASEAN countries, plus six others: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China and India. The only ones which will be out of it will be Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. If we cannot even have a FTA with Singapore, how will we manage to have agreements with 15 other countries?” de Silva questioned.
Accessing the trade network in the ASEAN and ASEAN plus region is a must, he said, pointing out that the Sri Lankan economy depends on how well the country is able to penetrate the global market.
“There is no way that we can develop the economy by just trading in the Sri Lankan market alone. We need to look beyond narrow political interests.”
The State Minister also dispelled arguments that nationals from other countries will flood Sri Lanka.