“HOLD ECTA UNTIL THE TRADE POLICY FOR S/L IS ESTABLISHED”
Posted on March 3rd, 2018

Sarath Wijesinghe – former Ambassador to UAE and Israel              

ECTA and the background Information

It appears that the government is determined to proceed with the ECTA- Economic and Technology Cooperation between India and Sri Lanka which consolidates all previous failed agreements on trade and industry. The professional national front (PNF) apparently out of desperation has appealed to the Indian High Commissioner demanding preventing proceeding with the negotiations until a Sri Lankan Trade Policy is formed as demanded by the professionals. Ironically Indian High Commissioner is a strong promoter of the ECTA on behalf of the Indian Government very keen on the implementation of the agreement urgently on obvious reasons by negotiating with teams moving between the two countries for some time. Indian High Commissioner is making public pronouncements on the positive aspects of the FTA benefiting both countries with “WIN WIN” situations on improving market access through FTA proposing/suggesting give and take process. It is learnt that the powerful 19 member delegation headed by K T Weerasinghe on the 8th round with positive notes and fine tuning, has returned from India after successful deliberations to be continued in Sri Lanka. Statements made by Dr Sally-(successor of Dr Saman Kelagama a leading proponent and activist for ECTA) from a Singapore University College- adviser to the State and Chairman of Board of Directors of Institution of Policy Studies appointed by the President says on 26/2/2018 on Mirror that “Sinhala Buddhists who consume Sinhala Media resists reform agenda for free economy due to protectionism and the only option to develop the country is free liberalized economy with freedom to the foreigners to purchase properties and assets freely for development”, which is a controversial statement as a leading member of the group of economists assisting the government line Ministers and the Cabinet on the implementation of the FTA between Sri  Lanka and India and other FTA’s with other countries and international organizations. This casts doubts on Sri Lankan professionals whether the policies applied to Singapore which is a small strip of land with no resources but a world business leader could be applied to Sri Lanka a country with diverse atmospheres, resources, ideally suited for agriculture, rich sea/bed and excellent harbours right round the Island, full of green, plenty of water, natural beauty ect which are not found in Singapore. Therefore seeking advice for Sri Lanka should be carefully monitored on/for Sri Lankan way on the basis of economy and developments in Sri Lankan way to carry on foreign and trade polices with the participation of local patriotic academic and professionals careful assisted by the foreign experts. Incidentally Sinhala reading citizen is politically advanced and taking sound political decisions from the time the universal franchise was introduced.

Why Sri Lanka fears ECTA

India is a world and a regional power aspiring to be a member of the security council engaged in cold war with China for supremacy on economy and Indian ocean with a population of 1.3 billion and unemployment equitant to the Sri Lankan population of 21 .3 million with a giant economy compared to ailing economy and unstable political situation in Sri Lanka depending on outside world for food and most consumer items with debt ridden economy. Sri Lanka have been a poor negotiator on international instruments failing in many starting from 1815 Convention on surrendering the nation to the British crown, Indo Sri Lanka Accord forced on Sri Lanka with establishment of provincial councils which are white elephants today, CEPA in 2003 unfavourable to us and now dormant, Geneva Resolution against Sri Lanka as a co-sponsor as a result of week strategies and negotiating skills for which we are paying a heavy price today. Fortunately in 2003 CEPA we have not opened the service sectors opening the door for unemployed 22 million Indian citizens where there have been 5 million applications for 335 vacancies! India is a giant economy producing cars, heavy machineries, drugs, agriculture and thousands of consumer items by industries and as household products can flood the market against our selected products for export in the dwindling and ailing export regime. We made the biggest blunder by selling a lucrative part of Oil Cooperation to an Indian Company when she is aiming at our oil tanks situated in the most strategic part of the Indian ocean in the ferocious competition with China now with a strong foothold for cemeteries via” Magama” Port now in full control by China for next two centuries. Therefore it is important for Sri Lanka to be cautious in dealing with international trade agreements when we are less equipped and incompetent.

Trade Policy for Sri Lanka

Trade is a major sector in the political and economic regimes of a nation especially in dealing with the local and outside states international organisations and the private sector which requires regulatory mechanisms and strategies with fast changing the complicated trade network worldwide. Historically Sri Lanka conducted trade with states, and private sector through the traders voyaged via Sri Lanka through famous “Seda Mawatha” sea route famous traditional route by exchanging our goods with the outside world. After colonisation there was transformation of trade in line with the British Colonial fathers. Sri Lanka dealt with trade with the rest of the world following the Births Model with no proper strategy and changes or policy on trade to date. Successive governments adopt different policies based on their political affiliations and agendas with lack of a clear and comprehensive trade policy or strategy. Decisions taken are not scientific and ad –hoc basis based on personal and political agendas thereby the country was at the receiving end economically blind, thereby Sri Lanka made blunder after blunder in international and trade negotiations with lack of vision or strategy when small nations such as Singapore, Hong Kong have become successful as negotiators in trade and economy. Therefore it is high time Sri Lanka takes time in the preparation of a full and comprehensive Trade policy to meet the needs and challenges in the political and economic fronts.

Formulation of a Trade Policy

Trade Policy of a country would be in line with the foreign policy which is how a nation acts and reacts with the rest of the world in terms of foreign relations. Similarly Trade Policy is how the state acts and reacts with other states, international organizations and the world business community in terms of the trade and business in dealing with the international community in the business/trade regime, for which there should be a clear and comprehensive policy to win the confidence of the world. Trade/commerce process/procedure was conducted based on the policies of respective governments from the independence with no consistency like in other countries such as USA, UK, India or Republic of Russia where the policies were open transparent and consistent. United National party policies until the SLFP regimes in 1956 were continuation of the procedure left by the British which was transformed to a more nationalist outlook by SLFP governments until again UNP took over administration thereby successive governments conducted trade in most inconstant manner until today. Currently the UNP SLFP coalition government it is not clear whether the policy is open economy of UNP or closed more Sri Lanka inclined policies of SLFP or a mixture of both which is a messy pickle of many policies with the partner parties TNA and JVP and  other small parties. After three years of rule the President has taken over the economy of the state through the high powered National Economic Council to manage the Economy still without a clear and comprehensive trade or a foreign policy as the foreign policy is also not properly managed by the President who has allowed the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to take independent positions giving different signals in the international arena.Even the ECTA the ownership is in doubt. It is reported that the documents are prepared by experts, foreign and local academics’ and economics at venous ministries headed by the Prime Minister the artic tat and the live wire of the operation planning to enter into various trade agreements with number of countries and international organizations.

Way forward and/to hold ECTA until the Trade Policy is Established

It is illegal immoral  unconstitutional and unsafe  to enter into ECTA arbitrarily in the circumstances before ascertaining whether ECTA is necessary in the interest of the best interest of the nation when there cannot be a – U turn once set up with asymmetrical world/regional power with vested interests so close to each other geographically. CEPA is consolidated and India wants to improve on it whether we like or not. Proposed formulation of the trade policy is to be discussed and implemented through the Parliament with the advice and assistance of the professional’s competent acting on Sri Lanka friendly Trade Policy. (Proposed reading materials by the author –Why Sri Lanka fears ECTA Telegraph 22/2/2016 – No harm being cautious Guardian 22/2/2016 – ECTA a Trogon Horse? – 19/12/2016 Lanka web- stormy road towards ECTA 6/2/2017 Telegraph – National Economic council takes control over management of Economy- Lanka Web 28/2/2018- Author takes responsibility for the contents and could be contacted on [email protected])

 

2 Responses to ““HOLD ECTA UNTIL THE TRADE POLICY FOR S/L IS ESTABLISHED””

  1. Dilrook Says:

    I agree on most part.

    However, a few import industries dominated by minorities that are owned and/or employ South Indians, engaged in tax frauds, financing TNA/SLMC and other sectarian political groups and religious extremism can be opened up for direct Indian companies. The country loses nothing. Imported garment, imported Indian garment and a large number of Pettah import businesses fall into this category. Indian companies should also be allowed to establish in the north where investments are at a standstill. This can fuel economic growth.

    Tea export industry is also dominated by a cartel. This is another industry that must be opened to Indian and Chinese companies. Sri Lanka loses nothing but gains economically and politically.

    This in turn can be leveraged to finally sign the FTA with China. It will be a viable compromise with India to allow us to proceed with the FTA with China. Until then the newly signed FTA with Singapore should be allowed to deal with Chinese companies (most of them have offices in Singapore – a Chinese outpost).

    The era of confining economics decisions only to economic matters is over. Economic decisions must also yield political and national outcomes. If done correctly, ETCA can be used to protect true local industries, save national interests, dilute sectarian political and religious extremism and give locals a better deal.

  2. Christie Says:

    All these Indian Colonial Parasites who control our economy and Politics are Indians.

    Sirisena, Ranil and Chandrika are Indian puppets.

    Imagine what will happen when when Indian are allowed to come here in millions.

    The real unemployment is much more than our population.

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