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4th round of negotiations on SL – Thailand FTA ends today

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The fourth round of negotiations on the proposed Sri Lanka-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (SLTFTA) was held in Colombo from 27 to 29 March 2023. 

This initiative aligns with the President’s vision of enhancing economic relations with large and emerging economies, with a particular focus on ASEAN countries.

On March 26, a 35-member Thai delegation led by Ms. Auramon Supathaweethum, Director General of the Department of Trade Negotiations, arrived in Sri Lanka for the fourth round of talks. Along with their focus on trade negotiations, the delegation also strengthened the long-standing religious and cultural ties between the two countries by offering over 500 alms-bowls to the Gangarama temple on the same day.

The National Trade Negotiations team representing Sri Lanka at the talks was led by Mr. K. J. Weerasinghe, the Chief Negotiator of the Presidential Secretariat. The team comprised officials from various departments, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Food Security, Ministry of Industry, Department of Trade and Investment Policy, Attorney General’s Department, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, Central Bank of Sri Lanka and Board of Investment of Sri Lanka. They participated in the negotiations on behalf of Sri Lanka.

During the third round of negotiations in January, discussions on the proposed Sri Lanka-Thailand Free Trade Agreement focused on areas such as trade in goods, trade in services, investment, rules of origin, customs cooperation, trade facilitation, and economic cooperation. The fourth round of talks will build on the principles already agreed upon, and delve deeper into these areas. Additionally, discussions will be held on trade remedies, technical barriers to trade (TBT), and legal matters.

Prior to the fourth round of negotiations, the National Trade Negotiations Committee and relevant sub-committees engaged in discussions with various industry sectors and stakeholders. The points raised during these discussions were taken into consideration and used appropriately during the fourth round of talks.

The Sri Lankan negotiating team’s goals for the talks focussed not only to increase Sri Lankan exports’ access to the Thai market, but also to improve market access to other ASEAN countries through the Thai market, and to reduce existing non-tariff barriers. The Sri Lankan Government hopes to sign the agreement in the first quarter of 2024. 

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Rs. 20 Bn loan lifeline for SMEs

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The government has taken measures to implement a Rs.20 billion credit scheme to revive the micro, small and medium enterprise sector in Sri Lanka.  

Accordingly, the Cabinet of Ministers has granted its consent to the proposal forwarded by President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policies Minister to implement a credit scheme to revive the micro, small and medium enterprise sector.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet media briefing held yesterday at the Government Information Department, Cabinet Spokesman, Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana said the proposed Rs.20 billion will be spent on the entire project which has two components.

“Out of this, Rs.15 billion will be used to strengthen existing and new enterprises and the remaining amount of Rs.five billion will be used to support enterprises under the non-performing loan category.

A significant number of small and medium scale entrepreneurs involved in manufacturing, import, export, tourism, apparel and various other commercial operations have found it very difficult to continue running their enterprises as a result of the economic downturn and the impact of external factors beyond their control.

The Asian Development Bank has agreed to provide working capital support for the Small and Medium Enterprise sector as a relief. The proposed programme is intended to provide credit facilities to existing micro, small and medium scale enterprises for further expansion and recovery of their businesses through licensed commercial banks and licensed specialised banks at concessional interest rates.

(dailynews.lk)

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Bakery industry in crisis as bread and bun sales decline

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The All Ceylon Bakery Owners’ Association (ACBOA) has reported a significant drop of around 50% in the sales of cakes, bread, and buns in the local market. The association attributes this decline to the high manufacturing costs currently faced by the bakery industry.

According to the ACBOA, the costs of margarine and butter have surged to Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 3,000 per kilogram, respectively. Additionally, the association cited challenges in obtaining imported eggs from India, forcing them to purchase locally produced eggs at Rs. 60 each.

The chairman of the association expressed concerns about the impact these rising costs have on the bakery industry. In light of these challenges, the ACBOA is urging the government to provide concessions and work towards reducing the prices of essential ingredients before the upcoming Sinhala and Hindu New Year.

The association’s plea emphasizes the need for government support to help stabilize the bakery industry and ensure its sustainability amid the current economic challenges. Further updates on the situation and any government response will be monitored closely.

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Former Minister Ronnie de Mel no more

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Former Minister – Ronnie de Mel has passed away today (27) while being treated at a private hospital, reports say.

He was aged 99 years old.A former civil servant, he was the Minister of Finance from 1977 – 1988 under the United National Party government and holds the record for the largest number of budgets presented by a finance minister.

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