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DateLine Tuesday, 26 August 2008

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FTA, beyond and impact

There is much talk on the significance of the CEPA in business news. The previous regime signed the FTA with India and it is realistic that we move to the next stage for exchange of goods and services between the partners.

The Ministry of Trade has to facilitate the expectations of the chambers involved in international trade with regard to the trade practices already in force. It is true that we have been rushing to the next stage of the FTA with India with tremendous experience in trade transactions with our big brother.. CEPA is going for the export of professional services for which we have a better edge having the highest literacy rate in Asia.

It is true that some exporters had problems with India specially with Vanaspathi, cutflowers, tea or fisheries etc. Yet our neighbours are watching the progress we make in trade relations with our big brother.

It is informed that our exports have grown 10 times with India, in just four years according to our private sector statistics. According to statistics the APTA exports show that the major bulk from Sri Lanka is going to India.

We should commend the vision of the former regime for floating the FTA with India and making the island the ground for Indian products. If we take imported pharmaceutical goods alone equal to British standards our hospitals would have faced a shortage of drugs by now. It is the same case for printing and publication of books.

Those who are sceptical over the extention of the FTA should answer with statistics rather than base their arguments in general.

If the people cannot be guaranteed the food, clothing, shelter and drugs at affordable prices, pious declarations of this nature will be of no use. We have been able to maintain social equity and minimum standards of livelihood for our 20 million citizens, under hostile atmosphere of conflict and commercial insecurity.

With the increasing defense expenditure we have to find the cheapest sources in the regional market for our imports and the competitive advantage for our exports with minimum export cost.

India with a billion population is just 30 miles away from our sea shores and it is unthinkable that we do not deal with a giant, economically sound.

This is what is observed by the Minister of Export Development that Sri Lanka’s geographical location in the region and its place in the subcontinent has to be considered in making decisions on trade.

CEPA is an extension of the FTA. CEPA is opening our professional services to India. Even by now our middle class children opt to enter Indian private educational institutions for higher education.

The educated professionals here can outsource their services for Indian professional institutions. They are not going to Europe to find the exchange but outsource their professional services to India, where in turn they receive double the value of our currency for their services.

We are not going to lose our professionals but they would be continuing their work here while outsourcing their services to india under CEPA. We have proved that we are leading professionals in engineering, architecture, education, health, hospitality trade and such other professional services.

With our record under western domination for 400 years we are ahead of the Indian brethren in our standards of lifestyle, quality of output and product standards acceptable to international level. Some of our brands have hit international standards. Already some of our products have masted in trade branding in India.

Minister of International Trade Prof G.L. Peiris, has emphasised the need for export agencies to think seriously on the potential of service exports for which we process the niche than our regional neighbors in the SARRC. According to the Minister our remittances by service exports have beaten the apparel earnings.

Therefore the exports agencies have to cater to the needs of the service export sector. CEPA is one safe destinations for our service exports as the Institute of Policy Studies have indicated in their report. O

nce Prof. Peiris addressing a regional conference on trade and services in South Asia in Colombo has emphasised that in human history mankind had been hunting with anxiety to know the unknown.

There has always been an element of risk in the process. Prof. Pieris indicated that the FTA with India outlines enormous participation on service exports. The CEPA would leave room to transfer the goods to services, the Minister said. The present day society being more complex the property, shares, debauchees and trade marks do come under Property law, he explained. The risk does prevail in the service trading as well.

The Minister explained that foreign professionals have come here and operate business like the Apollo Hospitals Ltd., Deshal de Mel of the IPS presented the case for Sri lanka in service liberalisation trading in the regional hub at the seminar held in Colombo.

This proves that we have all the advantages to be the hub for professional services in the subcontinent. We are major partners of the 1989 Accord with India and it has been have proved that we are independent to have our affairs with minimum interference by India giving the independence to our Courts to determine our future constitutional action, through proper legal mechanism.

They proved this by the decision to have democracy in the Northern and the Eastern province. Now it is time ripe that we show how best we can deal with the big brother by upgrading the FTA into CEPA as expected by our local business community

The proposed Sethu and the oil exploration project are covered by different agreements. Sri Lanka can prove that we can be a Taiwan to China.

Our professionals are capable to beat the Indian counterparts in most disciplines since they have had the best education in Asia. The Institute of Policy Studies can take the lead to inform the circles, before misconceptions take the centre stage in Business News. - Bandula Nonis

 

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