Rajapaksa said that neither the Parliament, nor the general public have been officially informed about the contents of this proposed agreement.
“I urge the Government to take a phased approach to entering to an ETCA with India. In the first phase, impediments to the implementation of the existing FTA with India should be ironed out. The problem of Indian fishermen poaching in Sri Lankan waters which has now reached crisis proportions should also be sorted out at this stage, to create an atmosphere of trust between the people of the two countries. After a few years of operating the FTA to the satisfaction of Sri Lankan stakeholders, we can then go onto the next phase and work out the specific details to broaden the relationship through an ETCA,” Rajapaksa said in a statement today.
Rajapaksa urged the Government to table in parliament the agreement they intend signing with India and seek the views of trade chambers, professional associations and the general public before making any decision to enter into this agreement.
He said the arrogant attitude the Government has taken in this matter may end up ruining Sri Lanka’s chances of forging a mutually beneficial trade partnership with its neighbour.
He said that at present, Sri Lanka provides a market of USD 4,000 million for Indian goods and while value of exports from India to Sri Lanka and vice versa need not reach a perfect balance under the FTA it is vital that Sri Lankans feel that we are achieving our full potential in exports to India without being impeded by various non-tariff barriers and bureaucratic stonewalling.
“Our focus should be to get India to open up without restrictions on Sri Lanka’s main exports like apparel, tea etc. Trying to broaden the trade relationship with India without sorting out existing problems, will naturally give rise to public opposition,” he added.
He noted that India has signed agreements similar to the proposed ETCA or the earlier CEPA with, South Korea, Singapore and other countries but these are very detailed agreements formulated with adequate economic and national security safeguards. (Colombo Gazette)