The drafts of all trade and investment agreements the government hopes to enter into with foreign countries will be presented to Parliament prior to signing them, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

He was speaking at a meeting with UNP representatives at Sirikotha yesterday. The Prime Minister said the government expects to sign trade and investment agreements with the US, India, China, Singapore, Japan, Eastern European and other SAARC countries in the next few months.

He said once the drafts of these agreements were finalised, those would first be presented to Parliament.

"Through Parliament those drafts would be accessible for any interested party including the media, professionals and businessmen. That is the most democratic means that we can think of. We have nothing to hide. There will be ample room for discussion," he said.

He also reiterated that the Government has got the people's mandate to go ahead with these trade and investment agreements including the ETCA with India. "All these are done aboveboard. We have excluded professionals from the content of ETCA. Several businessmen pointed out the need to take steps to remove various administrative barriers that do not come under duty free when exporting goods to India. This is a valid point as India has many such administrative barriers. We have taken up this matter with India now," he noted.

The Prime Minister noting that the present Government does not nurture an elite class unlike the previous Government, said his Government is answerable to Parliament and the people at large, but not to those who claim to be elite by the profession they practice.

"Now there is an elite class who demands to discuss the agreements with them prior to presenting them in Parliament. We are not for nurturing this elite class, but we are for empowering Parliament. Therefore we will present these drafts in Parliament, so that the entire country get an opportunity to go through them" he observed.

The Prime Minister said the foremost ambition of the Government is to usher in economic and social development to benefit the people. He assured that the Government's pledge of creating 1 million job opportunities would be fulfilled, by broadening the investments into the country. He added the planned trade and investment agreements would be of great help to achieve this end. "We cannot create 1 million jobs by limiting our market to the 20 million population in this country. We need to approach bigger markets in the world. We are hopeful of regaining the GSP plus facility and lifting of EU ban on fish exports before the end of this year.

He said some sections of the media were still harping on the old melody of the Rajapaksa regime, and asked what Prof G L Peiris knows about the country's economy. "We are working for a futuristic vision. We do not cry by looking at the past, instead we work thinking of the future," he said.

The Prime Minister also said a special debate on the current power crisis in the country would be facilitated next week in Parliament. He said the contents of the reports he received on the recent power outages would also be revealed during this debate. "People should know who was responsible for

them. People should know why there were power failures. We are here to save the country from those in the elite class who ruined the country" he added.

Commenting on the restructuring of the UNP, the Premier isaid the proposals in that regard would be presented to the Working Committee meeting next Tuesday. He said the aim of the party reforms is to make it suitable to the emerging new Sri Lanka. 

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