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India, Sri Lanka Forge Ahead With Economic And Trade Cooperation Agreement Talks

Updated: Feb 21, 2024 05:02:57pm

India, Sri Lanka Forge Ahead With Economic And Trade Cooperation Agreement Talks

New Delhi, Feb 21 (KNN) India and Sri Lanka are poised to advance discussions on the Economic and Trade Cooperation Agreement (ETCA), with upcoming bilateral talks set for later this month and in March.

This development marks significant progress for both nations, as previous attempts to finalise the pact faced obstacles, including opposition from certain worker unions and nationalist politicians in Sri Lanka.

The ETCA negotiations, which were initiated during the Maithripala Sirisena-Ranil Wickremesinghe administration, saw 11 rounds of discussions between 2016 and 2019 but failed to reach fruition due to protests in Sri Lanka.

However, under President Wickremesinghe's leadership, discussions resumed last year, signalling a renewed commitment to bolstering economic ties between the two countries.

President Wickremesinghe, who took office amidst economic turmoil in Sri Lanka, has stressed the importance of trade agreements in facilitating the nation's recovery.

Notably, Sri Lanka recently signed a free trade pact with Thailand, underscoring its efforts to enhance economic partnerships.

With India and China being key partners, President Wickremesinghe aims to upgrade agreements with these nations to aid in Sri Lanka's economic revitalisation.

The recent progress in ETCA negotiations includes the 13th round of discussions held in New Delhi, focusing on various aspects such as goods trade, service trade, and customs procedures.

Both sides are exploring mechanisms to safeguard local labour and are considering linking service trade to investments, official sources told Hindu.

While the agreement does not foresee free movement of individual professionals, officials are optimistic about reaching a consensus.

The next round of discussions is scheduled for March 2024, as indicated by a recent official press release.

India and Sri Lanka initially signed a free trade agreement in 1998 but have since endeavoured to upgrade it without success.

Previous attempts, such as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) discussions with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government, did not materialise.

As both India and Sri Lanka gear up for upcoming elections, there is a shared eagerness to finalise the ETCA before the political landscape potentially shifts.

Officials from both countries are committed to navigating the remaining challenges and cementing a mutually beneficial agreement.

(KNN Bureau)


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