Sri Lanka appoints lead negotiator to proceed with free trade agreement with China
The government of Sri Lanka has appointed State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya as the chief negotiator to proceed with the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with China.
The government is also looking at eventually appointing a chief negotiator to lead all discussions of FTAs.
Sri Lankan authorities are reviewing the provisions of the proposed FTA with China to ensure it would not turn out to be “another Singapore FTA,” The Sunday Morning has reported.
According to reports, Sri Lanka had entered into a FTA with Singapore in 2018 without a proper consultation with relevant stakeholders.
However, discussions on the proposed FTA with China commenced in 2014, when Sri Lanka and China had six rounds of negotiations regarding a proposed FTA.
However, the discussions had reportedly ended abruptly in 2017 owing to a number of disagreements on trade liberalization.
Sri Lanka enjoys strong bilateral and trade ties with China, which is expected to be strengthened further through the proposed free trade agreement with China. The Chinese play a key role in Sri Lanka’s development programme. It is these ties that has placed Sri Lanka prominently in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With Sri Lanka fast becoming a business hub in the South Asian region given it’s geographical positioning in the Indian ocean and the many trade agreements as well as trade concessions enjoyed by the country, China is interest in Sri Lanka has further increased. Chinese businesses/investors could therefore explore business opportunities in Sri Lanka and also look at setting up base in Sri Lanka to engage with other countries using Sri Lanka’s trade ties.
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