Beware of ideas of March
Posted on February 26th, 2024

Ranjith Soysa Courtesy The Island

The Sri Lankan government is getting ready to sign ETCA (Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement) with India amidst stiff resistance from the members of the professional groups who consider it as an open invitation to India to exploit the weak Sri Lankan economy as well as the Sri Lankans who are in an unenviable situation.

At a recent discussion on the deliberations on international trade agreements, one professional pointed out that the subject of trade agreements in Sri Lanka was managed only by one senior official of the Sri Lankan government. In all other countries, the subject of international trade agreements is discussed and determined by a group of highly skilled professionals, who look into many aspects such as international trading practices, local imports and exports, the impact on the local population, employment, other local resources, and economic trends. Social mobility of the local population and social aspirations of the population are some areas that should receive clinical evaluation from the professionals who investigate the subject of international trade agreements. Do we conduct such in-depth studies before committing ourselves to vital pacts with powerful nations like India, indefinitely? If so, Sri Lankans would be eager to get feedback from the Sri Lankan government about the feasibility of ETCA.

The CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement), which was rejected by many of the professional bodies as well as trade unions, was withdrawn by the then government. It was a step in the right direction. But ETCA, which we expect to be more comprehensive in all aspects and have a bigger impact, is going to be approved and implemented by the present government. When facing India’s rulers and formidable officialdom, Sri Lanka, as a country that has burrowed substantial amounts of money on account of the recent crisis, has little bargaining power.

It is morally wrong for the government to place the country in such a perilous situation. How can a small nation be expected to stand firm and make the right decisions unfavorable to powerful and strong India even regarding matters which will have destructive repercussions on the economy and the people of Sri Lanka?

Sri Lankan government led by President Ranil Wickremasinghe and the SLPP MPs should postpone the signing of the ECTA and open discussions with the professional groups, trade unions, and interested political and social organisations about the details of the ETCA in the month of March and listen and amend the agreement suitably or reject it.

Ranjith Soysa 

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