New International Trade Office to resume FTA talks with South & East Asia
Sri Lanka’s new International Trade Office, to be established on the directions of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, will resume talks on Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with a number of countries, the President’s Office said.
The Government has decided to reorganize the existing conventional institutional set-up and establish the International Trade Office (ITO) to obtain maximum output from the external trade sector to the national economy.
Realizing the untapped economic potential of trade and investment via linking with regional and global value chains is a major element of the Government’s economic revival programme, the President’s Office claimed.
Towards this end, the ambition is to first integrate into South Asia and then expand to the east; China, Thailand and Indonesia linking to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which consists of 30 percent of the world’s GDP, trade and population.
“To achieve this overarching objective, there is no alternative but to formulate a strong institutional structure to manage Sri Lanka’s presence in international trade the President’s Office disclosed.
It will be e removing the existing compartmentalization of trade-related institutions and eliminating the gaps in the approaches taken by multiple institutions.
The ITO, once it is established through an Act of Parliament will be headed by an Ambassador of International Trade, supported by an eminent group of advisors who has expertise in international trade and the core structure of the institution will consist of designated officers from all the relevant institutions attached to it.
The National Trade Negotiation Committee which undertakes the Free Trade Negotiations will also be an integral part of the ITO.
Accordingly, taking immediate measures to operationalize Sri Lanka – Singapore FTA (SLSFTA) which entered into force in May 2018 but has not been operationalized till now, will be the first task of the ITO.
The Joint Committee set up in accordance with SLSFTA comprising designated officials from both countries will meet in January 2023 and finalize the modalities to agree on operationalization.
In parallel, by next January the ITO will resume negotiations of the three FTAs with India, China and Thailand. The 12th round of negotiations with India, the 7th round of negotiations with China and the 3rd round of negotiations with Thailand will be held during the first two months of 2023.