July 18, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says that Sri Lanka, having recognized that small domestic markets are insufficient to sustain growth, is focused on gaining access markets for Sri Lankan exports.
Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka, cognizant that the economic asymmetry between Sri Lanka and India is going to increase in the future as its neighbor emerges as a major global player, is taking steps to further expand the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries and deepen it to go beyond trading goods to cover trade in services, investments and technology cooperation. The proposed ETCA, which is expected to be signed by the end of this year, will also remove all barriers to trade.
Speaking at the Third South Asian Diaspora Convention on Monday in Singapore, the Premier pointed out that Sri Lanka's close proximity to the fast-growing South Indian states offers a strategic economic advantage to the country. Also the sub-region (especially India) stands to benefit immensely from Sri Lanka's uniquely positioned geo-strategic advantage - its location at the crossroads of major shipping routes connecting South Asia, the Far East and the Pacific with Europe and the Americas.
Sri Lanka is also negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Singapore, which has a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India.
"Maximizing on these factors will transform Sri Lanka into a geo-economic center of South Asia, dynamically and synergically engaged with the rest of region." The Prime Minister said.
With reference to the CEPA and ETCA Trade Agreements between India and Sri Lanka, as well as the Free Trade Agreement between Singapore and Sri Lanka, the PM noted that by next year, the Southern Sub Region of South Asia, and Singapore would be able to enter a tripartite agreement plan, which would create a favorable and beneficial environment to all the parties involved.
"By next year the Singapore-India (CEPA), the Indo-Lanka ETCA and the Sri Lanka-Singapore FTA will enable the southern sub region of South Asia and Singapore to establish a tripartite arrangement for trade and investments." Wickremesinghe emphasized.
"Such a bold agreement possess the potential to enhance economic cooperation between our three countries that will also have a positive impact on the Bay of Bengal trade. At the other end, Singapore too will expand its importance and capacity for business networking in the region," the Prime Minister noted.
The 3rd SADC is being held with the participation of around 1000 special invitees, as well as leading policy makers, academics, business leaders, and over 75 civil society leaders in the region.