Govt. to establish an International Trade Office -President

President Ranil Wickremesinghe said, that he will establish an international trade office which will deal with all the international trade negotiations.

“I think if Sri Lanka wants to develop its international trade, we have to think differently and that is why I want to establish a separate office”.

He also said that the Free Trade Agreement between India and Sri Lanka would be revived and upgraded into a comprehensive economic and technological partnership.

He pointed out 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 Sri Lanka Indo economic relations.

He made these observations addressing the Sri Lanka India Society (SLIS) get together held at the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo on Thursday (15)

evening to mark the 75th anniversary of independence of India as the Chief Guest.

The President said: The Indian and Sri Lankan economies have two paradises, one is barriers to investment, other is non-tariff barriers to trade. Now both our countries have to gradually wean ourselves out of it. Especially, in Sri Lanka Indo economic relations. We are working for 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? At least our view is that India and neighbouring countries Nepal, Sri Lanka Bangladesh should integrate. We look forward to that. We look forward to trade integration in many areas with the RCEP with the EU, but the cornerstone of this is to achieve trade integration with India. And how do we go ahead? We have to give our emphasis.

What do you want to be in 2048, 2047? Prosperous societies without poverty where our per capita income is sufficient to be classified as an upper middle income economy or a prosperous, developed economy. Then that depends on trade and in exploiting competition.

“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 we will revive and upgrade the Free Trade Agreement 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. I didn’t know why it was necessary. At that time, I asked the then minister, Malik Samarawickrama to negotiate it, and we didn’t have very many things. So I abolished all the committees and I said, I want to see this done quickly at the highest political level. But I also think if Sri Lanka wants to develop its international trade, we have to think differently. So I have decided to establish an international trade office which will deal with all the international trade negotiations. As I spoke with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, first under the Ministry of Finance to set it up and when it is restructured, we will go in the future to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

“So this is the first step that will pave the way. It also means that we had to remove the red tape. We are looking at restructuring our institutions and looking at a separate ministry which will deal with ease of doing business competitiveness at the same time, to look forward to the different trade agreements that we will come to. So there is scope for Sri Lanka and India to get together and look at their different areas for instance, logistics, renewable energy, tourism, trade, I.T. There are many, many areas in which we can work together and we should work together for the benefit of our two countries.

“Secondly, we are looking at all the projects which India and Sri Lanka had agreed to, but unfortunately it had got delayed at the Sri Lankan end. So I have asked my chief of staff who is here to work on it, and I saw him today surrounded by different officials explaining why they couldn’t do it. So I presume after some time we come to the stage, they will tell us that we will do it. But amongst it we have our agreements on the Indian rupee being used here, which finally will enable Indian tourists to come in here and help Tourism.

“But of the projects, I will only talk of two areas.

“One is the long term energy solution, the power grid connection between India and Sri Lanka, offshore wind energy, solar power plant at Sampur and the renewable energy projects on three islands of Jaffna.

“We have a tremendous scope of potential renewable energy, and India has stepped in first. There’ll be others. But from Puttalam to Mullativu, if we exploit renewable energy and go in for green hydrogen and also provide power to India, you will see the upliftment of the Northern economy, which had not happened earlier. The big impact on the northern economy and the implementation. Then we come to promoting Indian higher education institutes to come into Sri Lanka, especially Jaffna is one area we have identified, again another development.

“And we had the Trincomalee development, the Trincomalee tank farm development, the development of the upper tank farm, the development of the Trincomalee Port and the investment zones which we are working out. Fortunately Surbana Jurong has given us a plan for the layout of the Trincomalee areas. So this gives big potential. The potential is such that you will find, as far as North is concerned, on its western side will be renewable energy and its eastern side a port. So that will contribute to the development of the north. But that is not only the area we are looking at. We are developing logistics because of the fact that we are one of the main ports for India and Bangladesh. So together with India, Adani Group has already taken over part of the West terminal of the south port. We will be further developing the logistics in Sri Lanka. Similarly, in many other fields even of the area of privatization. And now I am glad that the LIOC has decided to buy more filling stations from the CPC. Those are good signs for most of you while looking for a better supply of petroleum. But these will all lay the foundation for the area for closer economic cooperation between India and Sri Lanka. There will be new investments here. I am proud that Sri Lankans have gone out to India. Damro Company is one such example. We should allow Sri Lankans to go to India just as we call for Indians to come here.

“But let us treat this as one big market with potential because we have now to think of the future. Of the past, yes, we can be satisfied. In the future, yes, we have to plan it down. Let’s do this now and don’t look back. Look forward to it. Go ahead. We know what our goals have to be for the next 25 years”.

First Lady Senior Professor Maithree Wickremesinghe, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry,PC, High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay, SLIS President Kishore Reddy and Chief of Staff to the President and Senior Advisor to the President on National Security Sagala Ratnayaka also participated in the event.

by Daily News Sri Lanka

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