India, Sri Lanka to begin talks on new agreement | Daily News

India, Sri Lanka to begin talks on new agreement

India and Sri Lanka are preparing to begin negotiations on an Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement following Colombo’s reservations over a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that was being negotiated for long without any headway.
 
According to a statement released after the ninth Joint Session of the Joint Commission meeting held between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera in Colombo, “Preparations underway on both sides to begin negotiations on the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement. Preliminary discussions had been held during the 4th Commerce Secretary level talks in New Delhi on December 21, 2015.
 
“India will be holding a workshop in early March in Colombo on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB) and Phytosanitary Barriers (PTB) regulations and procedures. Cognizance was taken of the reconstitution of the CEOs Forum on either side and the proposals from the Export Promotion Board of Sri Lanka for increasing trade linkages,” it said.
 
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama on January 30 said the Sri Lankan government is planning to deepen bilateral relations with India through the Indo–Lanka Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement (ETCA) and intends to ink it by mid-2016.
 
Addressing an event in Colombo, Samarawickrema said, “Our intention is to sign the agreement by mid-2016 and we are also in the process of deepening our FTA with Pakistan.” In December last year, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had reiterated his government’s unwillingness to sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India and said it will instead enter into a pact on economic and technology collaboration.
 
Sri Lanka has voiced opposition to the inclusion of “services” in a trade agreement. The CEPA, a sequel to the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISLFTA) of 2000, was being negotiated between both sides for many years. After a dozen rounds of negotiations, sections of the business community in Sri Lanka came out against the pact. 
 
However, IT professionals in Sri Lanka have now voiced reservations over the ETCA that allows free movement of IT professionals across the two countries. They feel it will lead to a large number of Indian IT professionals flocking to the island nation and thereby impacting job opportunities for locals.
 
The apex body of professionals in Sri Lanka, the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA) has expressed its deep concern over the proposed ETCA. OPA head Rohana Kuruppu said in a statement on January 26 that the deal “is absolutely unnecessary as Sri Lanka has sufficient professional resources”.
 
“Such an agreement to bring foreign professional services to the country can be detrimental to the local professional resource base,” he warned. The Sri Lanka Association of Software and Services Companies, an organisation which looks after the interests of IT professionals in the country, too expressed concern over the proposed ECTA and said it will not support any agreement that is detrimental to the industry and the country.
 
A group, called the Sri Lanka Solidarity Movement, in a letter to President Maithripala Sirisena, has voiced opposition to the ETCA, saying the agreement will “create a situation where Sri Lanka will be flooded with labourers and professionals from India”.
 
Among other areas discussed during the Joint Commission meeting were, further collaboration in various projects, including upgradation of Palali Airport, infrastructure development at Kankesanturai Port, Sampur power plant and a Special Economic Zone in Trincomalee, etc. 
 
In tourism, the second meeting of the Joint Working Group on Tourism will be held in mid 2016 to take forward the collaboration on establishing the Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka and the Buddhist Circuit in South Asia.
 
The Joint Commission urged early signing of the revised Air Services Agreement that has been pending since September 2013. Both sides agreed to enhance cooperation in the aviation sector, including in areas of aeronautical search and rescue, capacity building and training and use of the Indian satellite system GAGAN.
 
Sri Lanka is to propose dates for the meeting to take forward cooperation on the Oil Tank Farms in Trincomalee. Sri Lanka also invited a delegation from ONGC Videsh and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas of India.
 
Renewable energy cooperation was identified as a promising area for further cooperation. A delegation from the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is expected to visit Sri Lanka in the coming months.
 
The Joint Commission included a detailed assessment of the development cooperation projects between the two countries. The Indian housing project for construction and repair of 50,000 houses was reviewed. The Joint Commission expressed satisfaction over the completion of 44,000 houses and noted that construction is expected to commence shortly for construction of the remaining 4,000 houses in Uva and Central Provinces. (thestatesman)
 

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