SL must enter regional economic partnerships

Monday, 15 September 2014 00:39 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Country Head for Turner Investments for Sri Lanka and Asia Pacific Rohantha Athukorala addressing the Rotary Club on the theme ‘Working in Sri Lanka’ stated that whilst the FTA with China will definitely help spruce the export agenda of Sri Lanka that has been hovering around $ 11-12 billion in the last three years, the country must focus on latching on to Regional Economic Corporation Partnerships (RECPs), while not forgetting to develop the already-existing FTAs with Indian and Pakistan that are at a very slow growth process. Athukorala, who was the youngest Chairman to head the pivotal export institution of the country – the Sri Lanka Export Development Board – and who has been on the EDB Board for the last six years, explained how ASEAN country leaders are currently in discussions for the Regional FTA, which will include China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, New Zealand and Singapore, with a market size of 20.3 trillion dollars and consumer base reach of 3.4 billion people. “This is the new thinking in the world,” he said, whilst commending the Government for signing the FTA with China. Even though there was much hype over reaching the 1.2 billion population of India with the Indian FTA, which has a attractive 400 million affluent consumer base with a Western outlook, Sri Lanka has been dogged with non-tariff barrier issues that have resulted in total exports hovering around $ 0.5 billion with very low headway on strategic sectors like apparel and tea. The Chinese FTA is said to target the value-added apparel, tea, sapphires and cinnamon. However, he cautioned that proper procedures must be in place to protect strategic industries even though in the truest sense it is time that Sri Lanka became competitive globally to fight competition. In the recent Competitive Index by the World Economic Forum, Sri Lanka had slid to No. 73 from the all-time best of No. 52 that was registered in 2011 during the economic boom post the war.