Gomi will soon brief PCoI probing SL-SFTA Foreign garbage issue:
Posted on August 26th, 2018

Former Director General, Commerce and one-time Permanent Representative at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Gomi Senadhira, yesterday, said that he would brief the Presidential Committee of Experts to Evaluate the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SL-SFTA) in respect of stipulation that may result in the large scale transfer of Singapore garbage, including hazards waste to Sri Lanka.

The commission commenced its work on Aug. 16.Senadhira said that contrary to a spate of statements issued by Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrema and National Policies and Economic Affairs State Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva following his exclusive interview with The Island that dealt with Singaporean garbage, the government was yet to respond to the contentious issue.


Responding to another query, Senadhira explained that SL-SFTA provision in respect of the movement of garbage etc., should be examined in the context of the proposed establishment of a high-tech facility or facilities to collect, process and disposal of garbage, including hazardous waste in accordance with the Services Agreement and the blanket Chinese ban on the import of garbage.Senadhira pointed out that in addition to China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand had stopped importing waste though they were yet to officially inform the WTO.

According to Senadhira China informed WTO of its decision on July 18, 2017.

Asked whether he felt that Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry should seek an immediate clarification from Singapore regarding the garbage disposal provision in SL-SFTA, the veteran trade negotiator insisted that Sri Lanka should ban the import of garbage and take it out of the positive list.

Referring to two statements issued by Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry in response to his exclusive interview with The Island and GMOA statement regarding ETCA (Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement) also carried in The Island, Senadhira pointed out that instead of addressing contentious issues, attempts were being made to sweep things under the carpet.

The Presidential Committee of Experts said that written representations could be forwarded to sl_sin@cmtft.gov.lk on or before Sept. 5, 2018. Those willing to come before the committee could secure an appointment by contacting its Secretary on 011-2687974 on or before Aug 27, 2018, the committee said.

Senadhira said that those responsible for the national economy should be able to recognize the difference between the strategy and the national trade policy. Unfortunately, political establishment here never ever appreciated the importance of trade negotiations and some of those involved in talks on behalf of successive governments, too, were responsible for current pathetic situations, Senadhira said.

Ports and Shipping Minister and SLFP spokesman Mahinda Samarasinghe told the regular media the Presidential Committee would finalize its report within two months.

Referring to recent press notice published by the Presidential Committee, Senadhira said that it dealt with seven specific points with the focus on the movement of professionals between the two countries in accordance with the SL-SFTA.

Commenting on the Attorney General’s Department assessment that SL-SFTA didn’t require parliamentary approval, Senadhira said that he still could not comprehend how such a vital agreement could be finalized without parliamentary approval. Senadhira said that the parliamentary process, including the much hyped Sectoral Oversight Committees, was supposed to keep a watch on key policy decisions. “I’m amazed that such a significant policy document can be implemented without parliamentary approval,” Senadhira said, urging the legal experts and political parties to examine the issue.

Senadhira said that foreign garbage was certainly not a political issue but a national crisis that could overwhelm the country in years to come. In spite of big talk and grandiose plans Sri Lanka was yet to formulate a proper plan to dispose garbage, Senadhira said.

Senadhira asserted that Sri Lanka-Singapore talks on FTA had started in the wake of China indicating in 2016 its plans to do away with foreign garbage imports though WTO was officially told of it in July last year.

Senadhira challenged the government deny inclusion of specific clause in SL-SFTA on North Western Province comprising Kurunegala and Puttalam being the final destination of foreign garbage.

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