Federation of Chambers of
Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka

Ten Years of the India Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement: Achievements, Challenges and the Road Ahead

A two day conference on Ten Years of the India—Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement: Achievements, Challenges and the Road Ahead was inaugurated yesterday (24th May) at hotel Taj Samudra Colombo.

Speaking at the inauguration, Hon. Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Deputy Minister of Finance & Planning and Senior Advisor to H.E. the President addressing the above Conference said that the free trade agreement between India & Sri Lanka came into affect in March 2000, and results have been mixed, with a fair share of successes and failures. He pointed out that when the export value of vanaspathi & copper & copper based products which were the main export items of Sri Lanka is deducted, the value of exports from Sri Lanka to India is considerably low. Vanaspathi was not in existence among the Sri Lanka’s exports to India in 2009. He also mentioned that the economic benefits to Sri Lanka outweighs the technical problems and recalled the bitter experience brought to his notice by some Sri Lankan firms trading with India due to non tariff barriers in India while he was the Minister of Enterprise Development & Investment Promotion.

Hon. Minister said that there is hardly any value-added export. Our exports to India are dominated by primary agricultural products. Though we have research institutes for tea, coconut and rubber, nothing for other export crops which fall outside the plantations sector. Minister said that we have to find out whether the FTA was promoting primary exports and mitigating value addition. Therefore need to think about the kind of export base that would dominate the economy of the future. Sri Lankan companies also should use the free trade agreement with India to try and enter into joint venture partnerships with Indian firms in order to share resources and diversify its export base while continuing to resolve problems and reap enhanced benefits from the agreement between the two countries. Services and investments are areas in which Sri Lanka could exploit the FTA.

Making his remarks during the Conference, Mr. Kosala Wickramanayake, President, Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) said that the FCCISL mainly represent the Small & Medium Scale Entrepreneurs (SME s) in Sri Lanka. He pointed out that many SME s in Sri Lanka are not in favor of the ISFTA. Therefore he stressed the importance of Institute of Policy Studies being a rational organization looking into the statistics and undertaking proper analysis when going ahead with ISFTA into the future.

The Conference on Ten Years of the India—Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement: Achievements, Challenges and the Road Ahead” was organized by the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) under the auspices of, Centre for WTO Studies-India, Indo-Lanka Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka and was held at the Hotel Taj Samudra, Colombo, on 24th & 25th May, 2010.

The Conference intended to evaluate the progress of the India—Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISLFTA) during the past decade by recollecting the rationale behind the ISLFTA in terms of objectives of the Agreement, and assessing the extent to which these have been met in the first ten years of implementation. The outcomes of the Agreement was looked at both from Indian and Sri Lankan perspectives in order to highlight the benefits gained and challenges faced by both countries. The sessions also focused on the future prospects for bilateral trade between the two countries over the next decade and the potential sectors and products that could provide significant growth opportunities.