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Govt. to focus on resuming talks on FTAs

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Government’s intention was to resume the negotiations on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), said Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake.

It is the vision of the President that Sri Lanka will integrate with the global value chains and with the largest economies in South Asia and East Asia and then expand to the east region linking to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Further, the Secretary to the President invited private sector stakeholders to creatively engage in this development initiative as they are the ultimate beneficiaries.

He made these observations during an awareness session on the resumption of negotiations of free trade agreements held for Trade Chambers and Industry Advisory Committees at the Finance Ministry on November 16.

Secretary to the Treasury, Secretaries of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industries, and the members of the National Trade Negotiation Committee also participated.

The contours of Global trade have been significantly changed in recent years by bringing regional and global production networks as driving factors of international trade where Sri Lanka has not yet been engaged to tap the potential. Both the growth of supply capacity and the expansion of market access are therefore, recognized as essential for revitalizing the domestic economy.

Towards this end, the government intends to operationalize the FTA with Singapore and has taken steps to resume the negotiations of free trade agreements with India, China and Thailand where foreign direct investment can be largely attracted to channel the benefits to the goods and services trade through the Investment Trade nexus.

A Trade Negotiation Committee has already been appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers to reinvigorate the negotiations and these agreements will ultimately pave the path to gaining membership of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which consists of 30% of the world’s GDP, trade and population.

During his remarks, Secretary to the Treasury – Mahinda Siriwardhana emphasized the importance of leveraging the non-debt creating inflows and diversification of export products as well as markets.

He also mentioned the budget proposal- 2023 of establishing the International Trade Office (ITO) which will deal with all international trade negotiations in the future. The Treasury Secretary also emphasized the necessity of engagement with chambers and other stakeholders during the negotiation process.

Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Mrs. Aruni Wijewardana highlighted that foreign missions and diplomatic channels have fully prepared to facilitate these trade negotiations. According to the government plan, once the proposed institutional mechanism is properly established the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will bear the mandate of international trade negotiations.

The private sector representatives engaged in the session with great enthusiasm and stressed in detail the necessity of giving the highest consideration to their offensive and defensive interests.

They also made a request to focus on other non-tariff barriers such as certain quota restrictions, various issues on laboratory facilities for testing standards, not having mutual standards recognition agreements etc. that are faced by the exporters, through these agreements while removing duties on our exports.

During this kick-off session of the stakeholder consultations, the National Trade Negotiation Committee gave the assurance of conducting broad dialogue with the private sector throughout the negotiations through the responsible government institutions.

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IMF approves Sri Lanka program review

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The International Monetary Fund has approved a review of Sri Lanka’s program, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry has said.

On a X post, he has said, “This achievement is a testament to our dedication to driving forward economic reforms and securing a prosperous future for all Sri Lankans.”

According to the State Minister of Finance – Shehan Semasinghe, “a favorable outcome from the review is expected to unlock the 3rd tranche of approximately USD 330 million”.

The IMF had earlier said Sri Lanka had made “sufficient progress” on debt restructuring for a review on June 12, despite final deals pending with bilateral creditors and private creditors.

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Another probe related to Easter Sunday attacks

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a Committee of Inquiry to investigate the actions taken by the State Intelligence Service (SIS), Chief of National Intelligence (CNI), and other relevant authorities concerning prior intelligence received about the bomb attacks on April 21, 2019. This decision follows the findings of the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry, dated January 31, 2021, which highlighted that Indian Intelligence agencies and other sources had provided advance warnings about the impending attacks.

The Committee of Inquiry will be chaired by Ms. A.N.J. De Alwis, Retired Judge of the High Court. Other esteemed members of the committee include SLAS special grade Officer Ms. K.N.K. Somaratne and Senior Lawyer Mr. W.M.A.N. Nishane, AAL. 

The committee’s mandate includes examining whether actions or measures were taken by the SIS, CNI, and other relevant authorities based on the prior information or intelligence on an impending attack on April 21, 2019 by Indian intelligence agencies and any other sources and if so, adequacy of the actions and measure taken by the SIS, CNI and other relevant authorities. 

Additionally, the committee will investigate the circumstances surrounding the Directorate of Military Intelligence’s (DMI) and Criminal Investigation Department’s (CID) initial belief that the Vavunathivu killing of two police officers on November 30, 2018, was connected to the LTTE. This belief was held for four months before suspects with alleged links to the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) were identified.

A compact disk containing the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Bomb Attacks of April 21, 2019, has been provided to the committee. The President has authorized the committee to inquire relevant officials and examine pertinent documents to thoroughly investigate these matters.

Ms. Sarathanjali Manoharan, Senior Assistant Secretary to the President, will serve as the Secretary to the Committee of Inquiry. The committee is expected to submit its report, including findings and recommendations, to the President by September 15, 2024.

(President’s Media Division)

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New, free train ride for pilgrims visiting Mihintale (Video)

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Cabinet Spokesman Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena has said that a new short train ride between Anuradhapura and Mihintale will be arranged for pilgrims during the Poson season.

He said this at the Cabinet briefing held today (June 12) at the Government Information Department.

Since work on the Northern railway line have been delayed, 400 special buses will be deployed to Anuradhapura instead during the Poson season, he added.

Noting that a special railway line from Anuradhapura to Mihintale has been reconstructed,  the minister said that Sri Lanka Railways has been directed to arrange special, free train rides on this line for pilgrims.

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