Sri Lanka: 1970s cry of ďexport or perishí becoming more real todayMonday, August 22, 2016 > 09:25:24
(The Sunday Times)
By Sunimalee Dias
Sri Lanka will soon have access to a three billion market of consumers through its resumption of trade ties. Central Bank Governor Dr Indrajit Coomaraswamy said last week. Addressing the Presidential Exports Awards for 2015 and 2014 in Colombo in the presence of President Maithripala Sirisena, the governor said Sri Lanka is aiming at linking ties to boost trade with India, China, Singapore, Pakistan, the EU and the US by next year. Dr. Coomaraswamy explained that Sri Lanka is in the process of negotiating a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement with China and bilateral agreement with Singapore and an Economic Cooperative Trade Agreement with India, a trade agreement with Pakistan, agreement for GSP + concessions with the European Union and a trade and investment framework with the US. In this respect, the country would be having access to a market of about three billion people next year, he said.
He also praised India’s decision to pass the General Services Trade that is expected to create a single market access for countries like Sri Lanka.
The governor highlighted that “a lot is riding on the fiscal consolidation programme” in Sri Lanka that plans to cut significantly trim the country’s fiscal deficit. Expressing concern over the slow growth of Sri Lankan exports, he noted the slogan “export or perish” was first heard in 1970 but that today the overall export performance in the country was “not what it should have been.” He blamed the country’s conflict of over 30 years and the macro economic framework as constraints to the development of the exports sector. Export Development Board (EDB) Chairperson Indira Malwatte said that currently the focus was on a vertical shift in the existing portfolio to a high tech and innovative products.
She noted that Sri Lanka needs to increasingly connect with the global value chains to boost exports in the country. International Trade and Development Minister Malik Samarawickrama said the government is pursuing its goals of boosting trade ties bilaterally with an “open mind.” The minister said that the Economic Trade Cooperation Agreement with India was done with the aim of increasing the number of goods and reducing the negative list. The government’s focus is to move towards a private sector led export development strategy, he said. Brandix Apparel won the coveted Sri Lankan Exporter of the Year award for both 2014 and 2015.