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SL to set up International Trade Office

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On the directions of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Government decides to reorganize the existing conventional institutional set-up and newly establish the International Trade Office (ITO) to interconnect all the relevant institutions and synergize their work to obtain maximum output from the external trade sector to the National Economy.

Realizing the untapped economic potential of trade and investment via linking with regional and global value chains is a major element of the Government’s economic revival programme. Towards this end, the ambition is to first integrate into South Asia and then expand to the east; China, Thailand and Indonesia linking to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which consists of 30% of the world’s GDP, trade and population.

To achieve this overarching objective, there is no alternative but to formulate a strong institutional structure to manage Sri Lanka’s presence in international trade while removing the existing compartmentalization of trade-related institutions and eliminating the gaps in the approaches taken by multiple institutions. The Government has decided to reorganize the existing conventional institutional set-up and newly establish the International Trade Office (ITO). ITO will interconnect all the relevant institutions and synergize their work to obtain the maximum output from the external trade sector to the National Economy.

The ITO, once it is established through an Act of Parliament will be headed by an Ambassador of International Trade, supported by an eminent group of advisors who has expertise in international trade and the core structure of the institution will consist of designated officers from all the relevant institutions attached to it. The National Trade Negotiation Committee which undertakes the Free Trade Negotiations will also be an integral part of the ITO. As announced in the 2023 Budget Speech, the ITO will initially be established under the Ministry of Finance and subsequently, it will be amalgamated into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to implement Sri Lanka’s foreign trade development policy across the world with enhanced and effective coordination.

Until the establishment of the ITO is fully completed, the core staff of the institution have been built up at the Presidential Secretariat immediately to start functioning. Accordingly, taking immediate measures to operationalize Sri Lanka – Singapore FTA (SLSFTA) which entered into force in May 2018 but has not been operationalized till now, will be the first task of the ITO. The Joint Committee set up in accordance with SLSFTA comprising designated officials from both countries will meet in January 2023 and finalize the modalities to agree on operationalization.

In parallel, by next January the ITO will resume negotiations of the three FTAs with India, China and Thailand. The Chief Negotiator and the National Trade Negotiation Committee (NTNC) comprising Sub Committees on specific areas have been appointed by the Cabinet for this task. In parallel, the government plans to resume negotiation of the three FTAs with India, China and Thailand. The 12th round of negotiations with India, the 7th round of negotiations with China and the 3rd round of negotiations with Thailand will be held during the first two months of 2023. It is planned to complete these negotiations possibly within the next year. Stakeholder consultations will be held with relevant Chambers/associations before and after of every round of negotiation to make them aware of the status of negotiations as they are the ultimate beneficiaries of the FTAs with enhanced market access. Already, the first stakeholder awareness programme was held on Nov 17 of 2022. Moreover, simultaneous actions will also be taken through this office to revive the PTA negotiations with Bangladesh and Indonesia.

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No COVID-19 deaths yesterday

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No COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed yesterday (29) by the Director-General of Health Services.

Accordingly, the current COVID-19 death toll remains at 16,828.

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Racecourse murder : Boyfriend further remanded

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The university student who was held in remand custody for allegedly murdering his girlfriend with a sharp weapon at Race Course grounds in Colombo has been remanded further.

Taking up the case today (30) Colombo Chief Magistrate Prasanna Alwis ordered him to be further remanded till February 13.

The magisterial inquest into the death was held today before Colombo Chief Magistrate and

A testimony of the deceased’s father was recorded before Chief Magistrate and further magisterial inquiry was fixed for February 13.

The suspect was not produced before Court by prison authorities since he is currently receiving treatment at the Mental Health Unit of prison hospital.

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Constitutional Council approves several judicial appointments

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The Constitutional Council met today (30) in Parliament presided by Speaker and the Chairman of the Constitutional Council – Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana.

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Sajith Premadasa, Leader of the Opposition, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, MPs Sagara Kariyawasam, other council members Dr. Prathap Ramanujam, Dr. (Mrs) Dilkushi Anula Wijesundere, Dr. (Mrs) Dinesha Samararatne were present at the Council meeting held.

MP Kabir Hashim, had informed his inability to attend this meeting due to unavoidable circumstances.

The Constitutional Council considered the recommendation of the President to appoint K.P. Fernando, President of the Court of Appeal as a Judge of the Supreme Court, to the post which fell vacant with the retirement of L.T.B. Dehideniya, Judge of the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Council unanimously approved the above recommendation.

Further the Constitutional Council unanimously approved the nomination of N.B.P.D.S. Karunarathna, Judge of the Court of Appeal to be appointed as the President of the Court of Appeal, and the nomination of Mr M.A.R. Marikkar, High Court Judge to be appointed as a Judge of the Court of Appeal to the resultant vacancies.  

The Constitutional Council further decided to publish the advertisement on newspapers of 1st February 2023, calling for applications for the appointment as Members of the Commissions specified in Schedule to Article 41B of the Constitution. Draft format of the application would be published on the Official Parliament website. The deadline to submit applications is 15th February 2023.

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