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Sri Lanka pushes for revival of BIMSTEC free trade agreement

Sri Lanka pushes for revival of BIMSTEC free trade agreement

The Morning: Sri Lanka will be pushing for the revival of the proposed Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the Ministry of Finance reveals.
Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe pointed out that in 2004 the BIMSTEC had agreed to enter into a common FTA, which had however failed to materialise for two decades. He revealed that therefore, during his visit to India last month, he had proposed to the BIMSTEC Secretariat to revive the negotiations relating to the BIMSTEC FTA.
Commenting further, he stated: “BIMSTEC will hold a forum next month to relook at this and to discuss this common BIMSTEC FTA.”
Semasinghe stated that the BIMSTEC FTA would be a game-changer for the region since no country could prosper alone, adding that this had been Sri Lanka’s mistake in the past, which had to be corrected going forward.
He stated: “There is a considerable volume of trade between ASEAN and Europe, benefiting both regions, owing to the fact that they have entered into FTAs. BIMSTEC countries don’t have FTAs in common – we have individual FTAs. For example, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Bangladesh each have an FTA with India. We are in discussions with Thailand now. If we can convert all these into a common FTA rather than countries having individual FTAs, it will benefit trade in the region.”
He further stated that the BIMSTEC countries should work together: “We should not look to compete among ourselves within the region and should instead look to compete with countries outside the region.”
BIMSTEC is a sub-regional cooperation between Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, and India. At the BIMSTEC Trade, Commerce, and Economic Ministerial Meeting held on 8 February 2004 in Phuket, Thailand, the member countries jointly signed a Framework Agreement to establish a Free Trade Area by 2013 to create a conducive environment for trade for member countries without any barriers.

OSL take:
Sri Lanka’s focus on becoming a trade hub in the South Asian region is fast becoming a reality with the country reviewing and revamping the the existing trade agreements while exploring new trade pacts. Sri Lanka has already entered into a new FTA with Thailand and is expected to finalize several more such agreements other countries this year. The many FTAs enjoyed by Sri Lanka as well as the trade concessions enjoyed with countries like the US, EU and the UK, have all helped boost Sri Lanka as a trade venue while also expanding opportunities in Sri Lanka’s economy. Sri Lanka’s manufacturing and export sectors have been greatly benefitted by the country’s strong trade ties. Given the growth and business potential in Sri Lanka’s overall economy supported by the trade links, foreign businesses/investors could look at setting up base in Sri Lanka to engage with other countries in the region using Sri Lanka’s trade ties. Foreign businesses/investors could also look at exploring the expanding business/investment opportunities in Sri Lanka.

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Article Code : VBS/AT/20240312/Z_1

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