Sri Lanka defends proposed Free Trade deal with China

Sri Lanka on Monday defended a proposed Free Trade Agreement with China and insisted that it will not have a negative impact on local industries, the Asia Pacific Daily reported.

Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen said the FTA with China will be designed keeping the local industry concerns in mind.

He also said that Sri Lanka will hold comprehensive discussions on the FTA with local industrialists representing various sectors.

“We will not allow local industries and employment to be hit by any Free Trade Agreements,” Minister Bathiudeen said while addressing local industrialists who gathered at his Ministry for discussion.

Industrialists from footwear, electrical and electronic products, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, rubber, wood, automotive components, boat building, processed food and packaging attended the meeting.

According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, in the five year period of 2012 to 2016, Chinese imports to Sri Lanka surged by a strong 67% (from 2012’s $2.56 Bn).

Even on a Year on year basis, Chinese imports in 2016 increased by 15% to US $ 4.27 Bn from 2015’s $3.73 Bn. Among the leading imports from China to Sri Lanka in 2016 were mobile phones, light-vessels and dredgers, semi-finished iron / non-alloy steel products, automatic data processing machines, fertilizers, projectors, and net fabrics.

Bathiudeen assured that his Ministry, with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CECM) will consult all relevant industries before inking the pact.

Thanking the industrialists for bringing these issues to his attention he also directed five of his top officials to commence a rapid assessment of all industries on the China FTA and report back to him within two weeks. (Colombo Gazette)