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SL to set up International Trade Office



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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HNB chairperson resigns




In an unexpected development, Hatton National Bank Chairperson Ms. Aruni Goonetilleke submitted her resignation yesterday (Friday) at a special meeting of the board and a new chairperson was appointed.

The move surprised the stock market.

Following her resignation, the board decided to appoint Non-Executive/Non-Independent Director Nihal Jayawardene PC as the new Chairman of HNB, with effect from June 9, 2023.

HNB also announced the appointment of Non-Executive/Independent Director Parakrama Devaka Cooray as a Senior Independent Director of the board of HNB, with immediate effect.

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Boris Johnson resigns from UK parliament




Boris Johnson, Britain’s former prime minister and one of the most divisive leaders of his generation, has resigned as a member of Parliament after accusing a committee of attempting to “drive me out,” he said in a letter on Friday.

The former Conservative party leader said he was “bewildered and appalled” after receiving a letter from the from a House of Commons committee, which is investigating whether he lied to British lawmakers over lockdown-breaking parties during the pandemic, known as ‘Partygate.’

Johnson, one of the main architects of Brexit, said the letter made “it clear, much to my amazement, that they are determined to use the proceedings against me to drive me out of Parliament.”

The former leader said the committee’s Partygate report, which has yet to be released publicly, “is riddled with inaccuracies and reeks of prejudice but under their absurd and unjust process I have no formal ability to challenge anything they say.”

“I have today written to my association in Uxbridge and South Ruislip to say that I am stepping down forthwith and triggering an immediate by-election,” he said.

Last year, the Metropolitan Police issued Johnson and then-finance minister Rishi Sunak – who is currently Prime Minister – with a fine for attending a gathering in Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdown, making Johnson the first sitting UK prime minister to be found guilty of breaking the law.

This March, Johnson admitted to the committee that he misled Parliament about what happened, but claimed he did so unintentionally.

His resignation means Johnson gets to write the script to the end of his political career himself. Rather than face a by-election – should the investigation into his conduct during the pandemic demand it – or risk losing his seat at the next general election, he will avoid the indignity of public rejection.

The fact he won’t be booted out of parliament but leaves on his own terms will help Johnson and his supporters tell a story: That Johnson did great things in office, was betrayed and then forced from office by people like Sunak. If only he could have come back, the next general election and fate of the Conservative party would be saved, they’ll say.

Johnson’s current approval ratings suggest that might not have been true. But the point is that now we will never know. And that suits Johnson and his acolytes just fine.

In the lengthy statement on Friday, Johnson said he was a victim of “a witch hunt” that was taking revenge “for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result.”

Johnson also criticized Sunak’s government, saying that when he left office last year “the government was only a handful of points behind in the polls” but “that gap has now massively widened.”

“Just a few years after winning the biggest majority in almost half a century, that majority is now clearly at risk. Our party needs urgently to recapture its sense of momentum and its belief in what this country can do,” he said.

Johnson’s entire political career was built on his personality. He was the jovial, optimistic Conservative that even a liberal city like London could tolerate as mayor.

His TV persona – part clown; part pseudo-intellectual; part loveable-but-out-of-touch-poshboy – won Johnson fans beyond the traditional Conservative base. He loved being loved, and his supporters in the Conservative party still believe he is a once-in-a-generation vote winner who would romp to victory at the next election if he were still in power.

But Johnson was also desperate to be taken seriously – and his time as prime minister offered him plenty of opportunities. Brexit, arguably his greatest victory, required diplomacy and statecraft that eluded his predecessor Theresa May.

The Covid-19 pandemic put matters of life and death in the hands of national leaders. Johnson was criticized for being slow to act at first. But the UK’s rapid vaccine rollout – made possible by a huge gamble Johnson took – boosted his popularity at a critical moment in his premiership.

Johnson has also played a leading role in supporting Ukraine. So popular is he that some streets in Kyiv have been renamed after him.

This Johnson – the one that wins elections, delivers on the biggest policy issues of a generation, stands tall on the world stage – is the one he will want to be remembered. Not the person who broke his own Covid rules and became a political irrelevance. (CNN)

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Flights between Jaffna and Chennai are going to start during the whole week




Discussions are underway to increase the number of flights between Jaffna and Chennai.

At present, only four flights are operated between India and Jaffna throughout the week.

The Ministry of Aviation has given the green light for the new arrangement to operate flights on all seven days throughout the week between India and Jaffna, and arrangements are underway to increase the frequency of flights between Jaffna and India in the near future.

These operations have been increased to cater to the growing demand from passengers travelling between Jaffna and Chennai and vice versa.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation had stated that no sooner Sri Lanka gets the Government of India loan facility for the development of Jaffna International Airport, the existing facilities in the airport will be further enhanced.

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