Sri Lanka looking at including services and investments in Regional Trade Agreements
The World Trade Organization Secretariat has stated that while Sri Lanka has Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) only for trading goods, there are discussions with other countries to expand these agreements and expand these to include services and investments.
Senior WTO Secretariat official Rohini Acharya said, “Many of these RTAs were negotiated few years ago and the coverage is relatively limited today”.
This observation was made at the seminar organized by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce on WTO and RTAs at the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo yesterday
She has stated that RTAs have been growing since the early 1990s at a very rapid speed.
“Today all WTO members without any exception have at least one RTA in force, somewhat up to 40 agreements. There is a wide range in terms of those RTAs. Even though all RTAs are negotiated outside the WTO framework between the parties to the RTA, there is a certain set of basic rules that those RTAs should abide by,” noted Acharya.
Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen addressing the seminar has said that Sri Lanka is a founding member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the WTO.
Despite the small and vulnerable economic status Sri Lanka is also the first South Asian country to introduce market-based economic reforms.
GATT was a result of a desire to combine bilateral preferences that existed at that time. Throughout the history of the GATT and with the creation of the WTO there are examples of RTAs and the multilateral system using ideas from each other as well as many other international treaties and building further on them. While such collaborative existence is clear so is the very strong growth in regional trade agreements especially since the early 1990s, he has added.
“From an average of three RTAs notified per year during the GATT period the number had risen to 25 during the WTO times. Moreover RTAs today cover a wide range of WTO members be they developed, developing or least developed. There are over 260 RTAs in force that have been notified to the WTO and negotiations continue on many others,” Bathiudeen has noted.
“While the rising numbers of RTAs clearly tell a story, less work has been done to decide what the RTAs are about and even less to evaluate what their potential impact on the multilateral trading system might be. The goal of modern RTAs is to provide preferential market access and also increasingly to go behind the borders to address other potential barriers to trade,” the Minister has said.
The move towards including services and investments in Regional Trade Agreements would further expand the scope of opportunities available in Sri Lanka for investors once the government enters into such agreements. Sri Lanka would be a destination for business investors due to the benefits enjoyed by the island nation through its agreements with foreign countries.
|Article Code :||VBS/AT/18102017/Z_4|