India opportunity should not be blocked by Sri Lanka protectionism: Eran
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka should aim for closer economic ties with India, soon the fastest growing Asian economy, and not be deterred by undue fears or protectionist tendencies, Eran Wickremeratne, deputy minister of public enterprise development, said.
“Increasing export revenue is pretty critical,” he told the nnual general meeting of the National Chamber of Exporters. “This was neglected in the previous period.”
With Sri Lankan exports to traditional markets like Europe becoming stagnant, the island needs to explore opportunities in new markets like becoming the ‘gateway’ to India.
“The Indian economy is the largest, closest economy to us, and probably the economy growing fastest in the next decade,” Wickremeratne said.
Fears expressed by the business community about Indian non-tariff barriers are “valid concerns” they have about integration with the Indian economy, he said.
“But India is poised to be the fastest growing economy in Asia. We can’t shy away from this.
“We can’t build protective walls around us. We need to be creative and identify immense opportunities available to us. We have to integrate globally.”
He was referring to the proposed new economic and investment partnership arrangement the new Sri Lankan government is negotiating with India to replace the existing free trade deal.
Protectionist business lobbies have opposed the new trade deal saying they fear being swamped by Indian goods and workers.
But Wickremeratne said other countries, “including our competitors” are coming to trade agreements with India.
“If we get left behind, our exporters will get left behind at the borders,” Wickremeratne said.
“Domestic industrial protection does not necessarily lead to the promotion of our goods and services, although it may be needed for a limited time.”
(Colombo/January 18, 2016)