Indian team to arrive in Colombo on Aug 9 for talks on ETCA

Our Special Correspondent


NEW DELHI, July 30: A team of senior Indian officials will arrive in Colombo on August 9 for two days of discussion s on the text of the Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) Sri Lanka and India are planning to sign later this year.

This was stated by outgoing Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India and Foreign Secretary-designate Esala Weerakoon. He told the Sunday Island today: "The team could not go on July 20 as was planned earlier because our officials were not available."

It will be led by Bhupinder Bhalla, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and comprise officials from several concerned departments.

Thereafter, a Sri Lankan delegation will visit India for a second round of negotiations in New Delhi to be followed by a final round in Colombo.

It may be recalled that Sri Lanka and India have decided to finalise the text of the ETCA soon so that it can be signed by Diwali (October 30), the great Hindu festival of lights now being celebrated the world over, including Sri Lanka.


A decision to this effect was taken by Sri Lankan Minister of Strategies and International Trade MalikSamarawickrama and India’s Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman when they met in New Delhi early this month.

The two sides are keen that the ETCA is signed preferably by Diwali, but definitely by the year-end.

Ms Sitharaman will visit Colombo in late August or early September for consultations with Samarawickrama on the crucial agreement that will give a big boost to trade relations between the two neighbouring countries.

Speaking to Indian business leaders at a luncheon meeting at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here on July 5, Samarawickrama said negotiations are underway to transform the existing Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA) into a comprehensive ETCA.

"The intention is to deepen the current agreement in goods by reducing the negative list on the basis of less than full reciprocity and widen it to include services, investment, technology and training. This willclearly open up new opportunities for Indian and other foreign investors to locate in Sri Lanka to access the markets of the fastest growing large economy in the world on a preferential basis," the minister had told the Indian business leaders.

Sri Lanka is also in talks with China and Singapore for similar trade agreements. However, Weerakoon said: "As desired by our Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, India will be the first country we will sign the agreement with."

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