FTA plan with China is on, not off: Dr. Harsha

Friday, 20 February 2015 00:49 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Charumini de Silva Though bilateral ties may have hit rough waters, Policy Planning and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva yesterday confirmed that a decision has been taken to proceed with the Free Trade Agreement with China. “The Government is not pushing it back; we will proceed with it, but there are multiple views. We won’t rush itbut we are moving in that direction,” Dr. de Silva told CEOs Forum organised by Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Sri Lanka yesterday. He said a private research agency had done a very interesting study on all FTAs that China had entered into and carried out a comparison exercise. “We want to look at it and see how we need to manage itover a period of time,” the Deputy Minister added. The CEOs forum was told that the Government would reassure China of its relationship with Sri Lanka and President Maithripala Sirisena is planning to make an official visit there next month. “This Government will not fight with anybody, instead we will be friendly with everybody. We have to be a responsible Government. Don’t forget that it was the UNP that signed the first agreement with the Chinese, not the Bandaranaikes or the Rajapaksas. We have a strong relationship with China and we are immensely grateful for all it has done for us. Therefore, those relationships will continue,” the Deputy Minister said. He also said the Government would also focus on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)with India. “The agreement has been paused for the last so many years and it is high time that we look beyond and grab the opportunity of the over 1.5 billion market in India. We are not going to back off from CEPA; we are trying to work with India, where it is going to asymmetrically benefit Sri Lanka in thatwe benefit more in the joint agreementand we are going to be moving in that direction,” Dr. de Silva said. The Deputy Minister reiterated that Sri Lanka’s foreign policy could not be mutually-exclusive from its trade policy. “We must have a foreign policy that is in line with our trade policy and economic policy must be a subset of foreign policy,” he added.