“We will ensure FTA with China will benefit Sri Lanka”: Bathiudeen

Friday, 27 September 2013 04:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shabiya Ali Ahlam Dismissing concerns, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen yesterday assured that the proposed FTA with China will be beneficial to Sri Lanka. The soon-to-be-finalised Free Trade Agreement with China has been commended by many though several others including economists have expressed serious concern that it will be disadvantageous apart from widening the trade gap in favour of China. “I cannot accept this. Many also said that the India-Sri Lanka FTA will be a disadvantage to the country, but it is not so. We are obviously formulating the FTA after conducting a comprehensive feasibility study. With the proposed FTA also we will do the same. We will ensure the China-SL FTA will benefit the nation,” Minister Bathiudeen told the Daily FT yesterday, when asked for his reactions to concerns raised. With regard to reducing the trade gap of US$ 2.4 billion between China and Sri Lanka, he noted that a number of initiatives have been made. One is the setting up of small scale factories to supply apparel to China. “There is a huge market for apparel in China. Having identified this potential, Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and I called for the setting up of 100 small, 250 employee factories. We will support these small factories by allowing them to use buildings that are currently are not utilised. This way we are making the best use of resources and helping these businesses as well,” he shared. Bathiudeen added that the initiative is an ongoing project with Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF). When questioned if it is practical to sign the China-Sri Lanka FTA by November, before the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM), he said that both the countries were actively working to have the agreement ready before the red circled event. “We are working on it. Our President visited China and both leaders discussed this matter. We also sent a team from Sri Lanka to Beijing for this and they are working on it. We are trying our level best to have it ready by November,” said Bathiudeen.