May 18, 2017

Sri Lanka ponders on parent of its historic FTAs

Sri Lanka’s historic Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) started not with any distant continents but in its own backyard-and more investments in South Asia can help stop the brain drain from the region where a quarter of global population are living.

“More FDIs can be sourced for SAARC if we collaborate, rather than compete. Even trade within the SAARC countries is less than 6 percent,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 18 May in Colombo.

Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the press briefing announcing the SAARC Investment Forum & Trade Fair in September. The briefing was jointly organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry of Sri Lanka, and Islamabad based SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SAARCCCI).

A study report by “SAARC Investment Outlook” by Islamabad’s SAARCCCI was introduced while FCCISL unveiled its report “Eliminating Non-Tariff Barriers on Sri Lanka to Improve Trade with SAARC Countries on Selected Products at this session, joined by SAARC CCI Executive Director Hina Saeed, President of SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry Suraj Vaidya, and President Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry Sri Lanka Sarath Kahapalaarchchi, among others.

“SAARC Investment Outlook” manual by Islamabad’s SAARCCCI introduces many prospective large scale investment opportunities available among SAARC members in heavy infrastructure, energy, tourism, and agro and dairy sectors.

“Nearly a quarter of the world’s population lives in SAARC. Sri Lanka’s historic Free Trade Agreements started in the SAARC region. The Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement and Pakistan-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement allow more than 8000 product lines to be exported to these two markets at zero duty” said Minister Bathiudeen and added: “Sri Lanka is also a proud partner of South Asia Free Trade Agreement. Being in South Asia SAARC is not a strange thing to us and especially for the Ministry. For example, SAARC supports the Measurement Units Standards and Services Department (MUSSD) and the National Measurement Laboratory under the Ministry to integrate various regional standards and measurements.

President of SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry Suraj Vaidya called for a stop to skills migration out of SAARC region. “Our skilled employees are leaving and working elsewhere. The reason is the low investment. Drawing more FDI can create more and better employment in the region. In its 30 year history SAARC has learnt and grown a lot.

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