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Conference on Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement

The Institute of Policy Studies is organizing a conference on May 24 and 25 that will assess the progress of the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ILFTA) through the last decade, analyzing the positives and the negatives, and take stock of how the Agreement should progress in the next decade.

The conference held at the Taj Samudra Hotel is organized by the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka in collaboration with the Indo-Lanka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the India-Sri Lanka Joint Business Council and the Centre for WTO Studies.

The conference will focus on evaluating the progress of the ILFTA during the past 10 years by recollecting the rationale behind the ILFTA 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 will be looked at both from Indian and Sri Lankan perspectives in order to highlight the benefits gained and challenges faced by both countries.

Shortcomings of the ILFTA will be emphasized through areas where the agreement is yet to meet the expectations envisaged at the inception and has had unforeseen impacts on the respective countries.

Sessions will also focus on possibilities of evolving bilateral trade between the two countries over the next decade and potential sectors and products that could be provide significant growth opportunities.

The overall outcome of the conference is to provide implications for negotiators for future negotiations drawing on both countries' subsequent trade negotiations.

With the liberalization of the Indian economy trade relations between Sri Lanka and India gained momentum since the 1990s.

Since March 2000, trade between the two countries grew rapidly as a result of the implementation of the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ILFTA).

March 2010 marked ten years since implementation of the ILFTA commenced.

This is a historic agreement in that it was the first ever bilateral FTA entered into by either of the two countries involved.

During this time whilst trade between the two countries has expanded rapidly, there have also been teething problems and trade disputes that have arisen.

The continued growth of economic relations between the two countries in the future is beyond doubt, considering the geographical, political and cultural realities within which bilateral economies is embedded.

Therefore it is an apt time to consider how these economic relations should develop in the coming years - should there be more formal institutionalised arrangements to manage economic relations? Should these be limited to trade or should they also enter the realms of services and investment? Or should the two countries slow down the pace of integration? There are also implications for broader trade relations - as to whether Sri Lanka should continue to focus on the bilateral track or place more emphasis on multilateral arrangements? These are the questions that need to be answered - informed by the experiences of ten years of implementation of the ILFTA.

SJ

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