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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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Presidential poll will be held first as scheduled: President affirms

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe affirmed that the Presidential election will be held as scheduled with the General Elections anticipated to be held early next year, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

The President gave this assurance during a meeting with the representatives of the United Republic Front headed by by its leader Parliamentarian Patali Champika Ranawaka at Sirikotha today.

The United Republic Front presented a proposal titled “A United Step for the Country” to President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (24), at ‘Srikotha’, the United National Party headquarters in Colombo.

After engaging in discussions with the President, the leader of the United Republic Front, Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, along with his delegation, presented this proposal to the President.

Speaking at the event, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, highlighted the government’s concerted efforts over the past two years to stabilize the country’s economy, which had faced significant challenges. 

Stressing the government’s commitment to steering the economy towards recovery through strategic reforms, the President expressed his determination to continue these initiatives with the collective support of everyone.

Recalling his open invitation to all political parties to unite under a common agenda on behalf of the country, regardless of political differences, the President reiterated his willingness to embrace constructive proposals from all political parties as part of the nation-building efforts.

The President responded positively to the request made by MP Patali Champika Ranawaka to allow other political parties to participate in the upcoming negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next month concerning the restructuring of foreign debts.

United National Party Deputy Leader and President’s Senior Adviser on Climate Change, Ruwan Wijewardena, along with Secretary General of the United National Party Palitha Range Bandara were also in attendance at the event. 

Representing the United Republic Front were Karu Paranavithana, Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe and Attorney-at-Law, Shiral Lakthilaka.

(dailymirror.lk)

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Dedicated SLBFE office to be established in Kegalle district

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In response to a joint request from the Kegalle Migrant Workers Committee and the Kegalle District political authority, Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara has assured the establishment of a dedicated Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) office in Kegalle District.

The request was presented during the Jayagamu Sri Lanka program organized by the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment in Kegalle. 

The Committee emphasized the need for an SLBFE office in the district, which has the highest number of migrant workers in Sabaragamuwa Province.

Commending the Minister for his prompt action in establishing a new SLBFE office in Nuwara Eliya District following a similar request, the Committee expressed confidence in his swift response to their current appeal. 

Minister Nanayakkara pledged immediate steps to open an SLBFE office in Kegalle and instructed officials from the Ministry and SLBFE to take the necessary actions for its swift establishment. 

This move aims to enhance support and services for migrant workers in the district.

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Parliamentary committee demands CBSL report on salary hike amid criticism

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Amidst growing criticism over the substantial salary hike for Central Bank employees, a key parliamentary committee has taken action, demanding a report from the Central Bank regarding the legal basis for such an increment without parliamentary approval.

Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Alleviating the Impact of the Economic Crisis, MP Gamini Waleboda, disclosed that the issue was raised during a committee meeting where Central Bank officials were present.

The Central Bank is now expected to submit a comprehensive report on the salary increment in the coming week. Following the submission, the Sectoral Oversight Committee intends to summon the Central Bank and its Monetary Board for further examination.

MP Waleboda highlighted that the committee expressed strong criticism of the 70% salary increase for Central Bank employees, especially given the ongoing economic crisis, deeming it an immoral act.

“We instructed the Central Bank to provide a report by next week to justify the salary increase. They will need to provide the legal provisions that empower them to effect such an increment. We will summon the Central Bank and its Monetary Board after receiving the report,” stated MP Waleboda.

Both government and opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) have voiced objections to the Central Bank’s decision to raise the salary scales by 70%, with Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella asserting that the Central Bank Act lacks provisions for such salary increases without parliamentary approval, deeming it illegal.

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