Multilateral trade agreements seen as the way forward for SL

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

"One of the medium term challenges is to transform Sri Lanka into a competitive export led economy. To achieve that Sri Lanka should sign bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with other countries in the future, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Deputy Governor Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe said at the launch of the Economic and Social Survey Report for Asia and the Pacific 2016, launched by UN-ESCAP last week.

He said that the Asia Pacific Region, which includes China, Korea and Japan, recorded an export oriented growth and that enabled them to record a very high level ofeconomic advancement in the recent past. "By looking at them Sri Lanka should focus on export oriented growth to become one of the most sustainable economies in the region, Dr Weerasinghe said.

"Sri Lanka could benefit from Free Trade Agreements with China and India because when those huge advanced economies are growing we could get the benefit out of it, which is absolutely necessary to promote export oriented growth for the country, he added.

Dr Weerasinghe said that Sri Lanka needs to have integrated Free Trade Agreements with India, China and Japan to reap real economic benefits for the country.

He said Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs) should also be aimed at by Sri Lanka because they reach their goals over a span of five years.  Their objectives include, reforming Sri Lanka’s trade and investment regime to world class standards; improving the competitiveness of Sri Lanka’s current exports; developing new markets, especially those that take advantage of Sri Lanka’s status as a regional services hub; promoting greater interaction between the U.S. and Sri Lankan business communities.

Dr Weerasinghe said Sri Lanka needs to have structural reforms to face future economic challenges under these circumstances.

The TIFA helps in utilization of U.S. tariff preference arrangements, strengthens worker rights and promotes ethical and environmentally sustainable manufacturing practices, especially in Sri Lanka’s RMG sector; reforms the educational sector to make it more responsive to the needs of business and increases mobilization of all sectors of society, especially women, in business and trade, he said.

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