India, SL must overcome trade barriers – President

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe said the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India would be revived and upgraded into a comprehensive economic and technological partnership.

He pointed out that Sri Lanka and India gradually have to wean themselves out of the barriers to investment and the non-tariff barriers to trade, especially in relation to Indo-Lanka economic relations.

He made these observations addressing the Sri Lanka India Society (SLIS) get-together held at the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo recently to mark the 75th Anniversary of Independence of India.

“I must thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for the gift of Rs 2 billion that has been given to us to promote Buddhist relations between India and Sri Lanka. We will come across with some new ideas and new projects which will make people aware of the connections between our two countries. Then where is the area where which we can expand. That is in the area of trade and commerce. Actually, many religions have more than one paradise. The Indian and Sri Lankan economies have two paradoxes, one is barriers to investment and the other is non-tariff barriers to trade. Now both our countries have to gradually wean ourselves out of it, especially in Indo-Sri Lanka economic relations. We are working on it because in this age, we do see integration taking place in South-East Asia and East Asia. When they are getting together, what do we do in South Asia?” he asked.

Speaking further he opined that India and neighbouring countries Nepal, Sri Lanka Bangladesh should integrate and look forward to trade integration in many areas with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with the European Union, but the cornerstone of this is to achieve trade integration with India.

“I think the future relations of India with its neighbours will be determined by trade integration. Trade integration gives an economic base. Common economic base is a prerequisite for a better national security and better political relations. So, keeping this in mind, we are taking two major steps.

First one is to revive and upgrade the FTA into a comprehensive economic and technological partnership. We started that in 2018 and 2019. Then I found recently that it has been stuck somewhere in the Department of Commerce with a large number of committees,” he said.

Speaking further he also noted that he has decided to establish an international trade office which will deal with all the international trade negotiations. He said that once they are set up and restructured, they will go in the future to Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.