Sri Lanka re-commences Sri Lanka-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (SLTFTA) negotiations
Ada Derana: The 5th Round of Sri Lanka-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (SLTFTA) negotiations commenced in Colombo Monday (26 June), aligning with President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s vision of strengthening economic ties with major and emerging economies, with a particular focus on ASEAN countries.
K.J. Weerasinghe, the Chief Negotiator, International Trade Office (Leader of SL delegation), expressed satisfaction with the progress of the Free Trade Agreement discussions, which are proceeding according to the agreed-upon timeline. The next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in Thailand from August 21st to 23rd, 2023. Three additional rounds are planned to conclude the Agreement by February 2024, with the signing expected to occur in March 2024.
During the opening session at the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo, Weerasinghe welcomed the SLTFTA delegation and emphasized the Sri Lankan Government’s objective of integrating into the global economy. Sri Lanka aims to expand its economic reach first within South Asia and then extend further eastward to become a part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Sri Lanka will formally request the member countries of RCEP to support its application. Given Thailand’s active participation in both ASEAN and RCEP, Sri Lanka will seek Thailand’s support in joining RCEP.
The Director General of the Department of Trade Negotiations and Chief Negotiator of Thailand, Ms. Arumon Supthaweethum, participated in the negotiations virtually. The Thai delegation, including H.E. Ambassador of Thailand in Sri Lanka Poj Harnpol, and the Sri Lankan delegation, including Kshenuka Seneviratne Senior Advisor to President on International Media, Chandani Wijayawardana Senior Additional Secretary to the President, K.J.Weerasinghe Chief Negotiator, International Trade Office (Leader of SL delegation), S.W.C. Jayamini, Additional Secretary to the President (Deputy Chief Negotiator) also attended the event. The 5th round of discussions is scheduled to conclude on Wednesday (28).
Sri Lanka enjoys many trade agreements as well as trade concessions. The government of Sri Lanka is currently focused on reviewing and further strengthening the existing trade pacts while also looking at forming new trade agreements. The proposed trade pact between Sri Lanka and Thailand is one such new free trade agreement that is being worked on. Sri Lanka and Thailand enjoy historical bilateral and trade ties and they would be further enhanced by the proposed new trade pact. Thai businesses/investors could therefore explore the expanding business/investment opportunities in Sri Lanka while local businesses could also look at forming partnerships or joint ventures with Thai businesses targeting the new trade pact. Also, other foreign businesses/investors could look at setting up base in Sri Lanka to engage with countries in the region using the preferential treatment accorded to Sri Lankan businesses as well as the trade pacts.
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