In the latest salvo against the Economic Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA), the Association of Technology Professionals (ATP) has sent a strongly worded missive to President Maithripala Sirisena, calling on him to remove International Trade and Development Strategies Minister Malik Samarawickrama and dissolve the negotiation committee for the key agreement with India.
The letter, which was circulated to media, calls for Minister Samarawickrama and Ministry Secretary Chandani Wijewardene, to be removed from their posts and the Ministry to be handed over to a new Minister by President Sirisena. The organisation also appealed to the President to immediately intervene to end negotiations on ETCA, alleging that it was against national interest, and would have lasting negative impact if the deal was allowed to be signed. ATP also wants the President to dissolve the committee appointed to negotiate ETCA.
“Three American nationals have been hired to assist in formulating policy connected to the International Trade and Development Strategies Ministry, that contravenes the national interests of Sri Lanka. At least one Sri Lankan, residing overseas with conflicts of interest engaged in an import/export business, has been appointed to the ETCA negotiation team. These individuals cannot be trusted to work in the best interests of Sri Lanka and its future growth prospects,” the letter, signed by ATP Chairman Kapila Perera and Secretary Lasantha Wickremasinghe, said.
The three-page missive also included a range of allegations, including charges of bribery on the part of ETCA negotiation committee members, and disregard of international best practices and standards when formulating trade policy. ATP also criticised the recently signed Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) pointing out that, as a result, Sri Lanka would lose tens of millions of dollars worth of tax revenue, but there are no guarantees that Sri Lanka’s exports would be given the opportunity to increase in parallel to lost tariff revenue.
“No feasibility study has been done ahead of these negotiations, no stakeholder consultations have been held and no transparency has been maintained during ETCA discussions. There is still little information available in the public sphere as to how this agreement will impact professionals and local businesses. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to expect a fair and balanced agreement that would benefit Sri Lanka,” the letter noted.