There will be another round of trade negotiations in April 2017 prior to Sri Lanka and India entering into......the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA),

State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe said.

Speaking at a Cabinet media briefing yesterday, he said that there is no fixed time frame within which the accord has to be entered into. Negotiations are continuing and the next round of negotiations will be in India in April, he added.

"We have to seek avenues to enhance our exports which have been falling drastically as a percentage of the GDP. Signing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) is a major way to expand our exports. Hence, we are looking at not only ETCA, but several FTAs with countries such as Singapore, Thailand and China," he said.

According to Central Bank data exports in the year 2000 were at a record high at 33.3% of GDP but dropped to 12.8% of GDP in 2015. The same drop applies to exports to India as well. In the year 2009, exports to India, as a percentage of GDP, was around 0.8% and it remained at 0.8% in 2013 as well.

Despite the enthusiasm of the government to sign the ETCA many professional bodies as well as economists had expressed concern over the ETCA. Recently, a group of independent economists said, in a letter to the President, they wanted to contribute to the on-going discussions on proposed international trade agreements, particularly the controversial Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India and the proposed FTA to be signed with China.

"In view of this, we urge the government to consider our view point when pursuing negotiations with any country relating to preferential trade liberalizations. We, as professional economists, do not believe that mere growth of foreign trade would lead to improved living standards of the people or to the wellbeing of our citizens. The purpose of any economic strategy should be to promote national interests such as growth of national product, better social equality, reinforced environmental sustenance and enhanced national sovereignty rather than mere trade promotion. Therefore, we believe that policies, strategies and plans have to be geared to and compatible with realizing these harmonized composite national development goals," their letter said. (ceylontoday)

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