China, S’pore FTAs can transform two-thirds of Lankan imports, says WTO

Published : 9:09 am  October 11, 2017 | No comments so far |  |  (93) reads | 
  • Clinch China, S’pore at zero, get huge benefits’-WTO’s Acharya
  • But says SL needs to be mindful of how regional trade pacts are defined

 

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From left: WTO’s Regional Trade Agreements Division Counsellor Joann Crawford , Industry and Commerce Ministry Secretary K.D.N. Ranjith Ashoka, Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and WTO’s Regional Trade Agreements Division’s Chief Rohini Acharya at RTA session by the Department of Commerce in Colombo

 

No less than two thirds of annual imports to Sri Lanka will enter the country duty free when the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with China and Singapore are wrapped up, said a visiting top official from World Trade Organization (WTO) in Colombo yesterday.  “At present over half of Sri Lanka’s imports are from MFN (most favoured nations) sources at zero import duty. 

Assuming both China and Singapore FTAs are successfully formulated, and with zero duty rates, the total volume of duty free imports to Sri Lanka will be 75 percent of the country’s annual imports” said WTO’s Regional Trade Agreements Division’s Chief Dr. Rohini Acharya.


Acharya, joined by the visiting WTO Counsellor Joann Crawford was addressing the launch event of the National Seminar on WTO and Regional Trade Agreements organized by the Department of Commerce at Taj Hotel in Colombo, yesterday. 


“In that, the volume of duty free imports annually entering Sri Lanka will go up to 75 percent from the present 51 percent bringing significant advantages to the economy such as low cost products in the market and low cost raw materials for export industries. The two new FTAs can bring an additional 24 percent totalling it to 75 percent” she said.


However, she cautioned: “Beware of how you define RTAs –a real RTA (regional trade agreement) should be reciprocal; unilateral agreements such as the GSP are not two-way. We are talking of such two-way (reciprocal) programs as the India-Sri Lanka FTA and Pakistan-Sri Lanka FTA.”


Responding to that, Industry and Commerce Ministry Secretary K.D.N. Ranjith Ashoka said that is vital to resolve trade issues but they should not deter the workings on RTAs. “We are presently working towards China and Singapore FTAs. The FTA work is proceeding with much care so that local stakeholders are protected,” he said. 
“Sri Lanka’s hub positioning is a key. They call it open skies, but the open ocean routes are even more important for our trade development. For example, we handle about 30 percent of Indian container trans-shipments,” he added.