Trade Pacts with US, UK imminent

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Indo-Sri Lanka Economic and Technology Cooperative Agreement (ETCA) will be finalized by the end of this year allowing freer movement of goods and services, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said addressing the 12th World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia yesterday.
Wickremesinghe added that trade deals with the United States and the United Kingdom will be considered next year. He added that South Asia was ‘the place to be’ in the current economic climate of the world and that Sri Lanka has taken a number of actions to increase trade liberalization including a number of free trade agreements with Asian and Western nations.

“Sri Lanka pioneered trade liberalization in Asia and even now it is comes on top of rankings on economic freedoms. We are now getting ready for the next round of macroeconomic changes. Highways to Kandy and Hambantota will be dynamos of job creation and under the megapolis programme we are trying to make the entire Western Province of Sri Lanka one city. There is also a 269-hectare financial city being built near Colombo on land reclaimed from the sea. It will be a foundation for financial services in South Asia and be another link in the chain of business that stretches from Hong Kong to Dubai,” he said.

He added that the government is negotiating the resumption of the GSP + agreement with the European Union and that free trade deals will be signed with Singapore and Japan.
We will also explore the possibility of increasing trade with Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia,” he said. Minister of Public Enterprises Development Kabir Hashim, State Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation A. H. M. Fowzie, State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe also attended the summit.
The World Islamic Economic Forum was initiated as the OIC Business Forum, which was held on 15 October 2003 in conjunction with the 10th OIC Summit in Putrajaya, Malaysia. This is the 12th World Islamic Economic Forum themed ‘decentralizing growth, empowering future business’. Addressing the summit, Chairman of WIEF – Tun Musa Hitam said the main areas of focus were halal tourism, micro and macro economy sector development, modest fashion and Islamic banking.