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Sri Lanka to enhance trade integration across South, Southeast and East Asia

Sri Lanka to enhance trade integration across South, Southeast and East Asia

The Morning: In a strategic move to revitalize Sri Lanka’s domestic economy, the Government is placing a strong emphasis on two key components: expanding supply capacity and broadening market access, the President Media Division (PMD) said, issuing a recent press release.
This multifaceted growth strategy aims to propel the nation toward economic recovery. As part of this endeavor, Sri Lanka is not only looking to strengthen its ties with its largest traditional export destinations, namely the USA and the EU/UK, but also actively deepening its integration with regions in South Asia, South East Asia, and East Asia.
The press release further read: “One significant aspect of this economic strategy involves the negotiation and execution of bilateral trade agreements. Currently, Sri Lanka has bilateral trade agreements in place with key South Asian partners, including India (India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement – ISLFTA) and Pakistan (Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement – PSFTA), with a primary focus on trade in goods.”
Additionally, Sri Lanka enjoys access to South Asian markets through regional trading agreements, such as the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and the SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA).
Notably, Sri Lanka is actively engaged in Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) negotiations with Bangladesh, with a strong emphasis on trade in goods. These negotiations, initiated in June 2021, have already seen three rounds of discussions. Given Sri Lanka’s positive trade balance with Bangladesh, establishing a PTA is seen as a pivotal move to further enhance bilateral trade, beyond the existing agreements in place. The next step involves both countries exchanging their initial offer lists in preparation for subsequent rounds of negotiations, it added.
Furthermore, Sri Lanka is set to enter its 12th round of negotiations on the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India. This comprehensive agreement has a broader scope than the current ISLFTA, underscoring the deepening economic ties between the two nations.
“Sri Lanka’s engagement with ASEAN countries is on the rise through Free Trade Agreements. The country has already entered into a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Singapore (Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement – SLSFTA) in January 2018, which came into force in May of the same year. Ongoing negotiations are taking place with other ASEAN countries, including Thailand and Indonesia, with the goal of expanding trade cooperation across various sectors,” it was noted.
Sri Lanka is also in discussions with China to resume negotiations for a proposed FTA. So far, six rounds of negotiations have been concluded, aiming to gain market access for selected Sri Lankan products in China and establish links to global value chains, President’s Media said in the aforesaid release.
Additionally, Sri Lanka is making strides towards establishing an economic integration program with ASEAN, Oceania, and East Asia by joining the world’s largest Free Trade Agreement, the “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)” Agreement. The Government has already submitted its letter of Intention to join the RCEP, underscoring its commitment to global economic integration.
It read: “All these trade agreement negotiations are under the purview of the Cabinet appointed National Trade Negotiation Committee (NTNC). Led by the Chief Negotiator of the Office of International Trade under the Presidential Secretariat, this committee includes senior-level officers from various Government departments and institutions. The NTNC is further supported by eleven subcommittees representing relevant ministries and departments, facilitating negotiations and stakeholder engagements.”
These comprehensive trade initiatives are integral to Sri Lanka’s vision of transforming into a developed economy by 2048, aligning with the Government’s overarching goals for economic growth and prosperity, the PMD said in the release.

OSL take:
Sri Lanka is engaged in an aggressive campaign to review existing business, trade and investment it’s while further expanding ties with new markets. The government of Sri Lanka is committed to expand Sri Lanka’s market access. Apart from Sri Lanka’s geographical positioning in the Indian Ocean, the many trade agreements as well as trade concessions enjoyed by the country have helped boost the country’s economic activities through the continuous expansion of the manufacturing and exports sectors. Sri Lanka is currently looking at strengthening ties and expanding access in the Asian region – South, Southeast and East Asia. These moves have helped Sri Lanka develop itself as an emerging business destination in the South Asian region. Therefore, Sri Lanka could be used by foreign businesses/investors to set up base to engage with other countries in the region while also looking at the expanding business/investment opportunities in the island. Sri Lanka’s economic resilience and ongoing economic activities are a confidence booster for foreign businesses/investors.

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Article Code : VBS/AT/20231101/Z_1

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