Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who is in Davos, Switzerland for the 47th World Economic Forum addressing journalists at the media village. Ministers Malik Samarawickrema, Ravi Karunanayake and Harin Fernando are also in the picture.

Separate agreements with five southern states of India – access to 500 b $ regional economy:

FTA with ASEAN on the cards, PM says:

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with China, Singapore and India will be finalized before June this year, Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama revealed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

He said the tripartite agreements would give Sri Lanka market access to over 2.5 billion people.

Infrastructure to support industry and trade will fall in place within the next two to three years, the Minister said:

“With the Hambantota Port, it’s a matter of getting the equipment in place – gantry cranes and so on - that should happen soon: Within the next six months, the Hambantota Port should be ready to take off,” he said.

“Expressways are already in place – the Expressway to Hambantota should be complete in the next 2-3 years, the Expressway to Kandy within 3 years and we have called for proposals for Light Rail Transit and Elevated Highways – we envision those will also fall in place within the next 2-3 years.”

The Development Strategies and International Trade Minister also said Sri Lanka was working towards improving ease-of-business indicators, and addressing other related issues:

“One problem we identified is that our access has been to traditional markets – the United States, the UK, some countries in Europe, and India: We need to diversify our market and diversify our trade – we can do that this year,” he said, pronouncing 2017 an important year.

Premier Wickremesinghe had earlier outlined Sri Lanka’s plans for intra-regional trade relations, explaining that as Asia moved towards further economic integration, Sri Lanka envisaged the role of a logistic and business hub in the Indian Ocean.

“We are in the process of completing negotiations for market entry,” the Prime Minster said. “First, the single market…the GSP+ facility which gives Sri Lanka concessions has been approved in principle, and after the customary two-months period, the announcement will be made, as to the date on which Sri Lankan goods can enter the single market.”

On the Asian side, the Prime Minster touched on the FTAs with China, Singapore and India, saying that at the conclusion of negotiations, “…of the four largest markets in the world, three will be within the reach of Sri Lanka, and Sri Lankan products and services can penetrate these markets.”

The Prime Minister added that separate agreements with five southern states of India was also on the cards, giving Sri Lanka access to 500 billion $ regional economy:

“…We envisage, we can have separate agreements with five southern states of India: Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka, TN, Kerala; which, together with SL is a 500 billion $ regional economy and has the prospect of even going up to a trillion dollars.”

He added that the Sri Lanka government was looking at further agreements with Bay of Bengal countries – “Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar,” adding that “an option is to have an agreement with ASEAN rather than to negotiate with individual countries.”

“We will be also talking about an FTA with Japan and a further FTA with Pakistan,” the Prime Minister told the gathering, at the 47th session of the World Economic Forum.

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake who also addressed participants, told global leaders that Sri Lanka was looking at a ‘rapid growth orientation’: “We have looked at two areas - 1. How to lure FDI into Sri Lanka and 2. How to use existing manufacturers – who are the best of ambassadors – to improve and increase existing investments in the country – a two-pronged attack,” he quipped.

The Finance Minister echoed Development Strategies and Trade Minister Malik

Samarawickrama in saying “product diversification and market diversification” was key, to “ help us increase exports which dramatically reduced in past ten years.”

“The perilous economy we inherited…has somewhat, been brought under control….owing to strict policies…and today we are on a right course, where fiscal consolidation is coming in, we ensuring financial discipline and ensuring capital investment goes in for revenues of tomorrow.”


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