Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to China Karunasena Kodituwakku told the Global Times that China and Sri Lanka have not been hasty about the FTA talks.
“The process started with a feasibility study undertaken in 2013 and negotiations commenced in 2014. We were not able to meet in 2015 due to a change of Government, but talks resumed in 2016. So far, we have had six rounds of negotiations and made good progress. Given the friendly and long-standing relations with China, and China being an important development partner, Sri Lanka is keen to conclude FTA negotiations,” he said.
The Ambassador said that it is true that the tariff liberalization program, or tariff elimination under the FTA, has raised concerns among stakeholders in certain sectors, which is natural.
“On the other hand, we need increased market access to China for our products currently being exported and exports that will be generated through investment in Sri Lanka from China. Therefore, we need to take into account these different interests and strike a balance in the proposed modality for tariff liberalization. Therefore, these aspects on tariff liberalization modality are currently being analyzed and we need to be creative to find alternative solutions to these issues. We will propose to hold the 7th round of negotiations in Colombo shortly,” he said.
Furthermore, the Ambassador said that the teams which are involved in the negotiations are professionals from both countries and have taken a long duration due to complex situations in both economies.
“China’s GDP is more than $12 trillion, but Sri Lanka’s GDP is only about $85 billion. The trade turnover of our two countries was $4,472.73 million [4.47 billion] in the year 2016, while the value of Sri Lanka’s exports to China was $199.1 million. Therefore, you can understand the complex nature of trade between our two countries. However, Sri Lanka is determined to sign the FTA with China when negotiations are concluded,” he said. (Colombo Gazette)