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Sri Lanka should sell more to Asia in a post-COVID 19 scenario – Pathfinder Foundation

GO EAST – Think tank advises Sri Lanka to sell to Asia

ECONOMYNEXT – The Pathfinder Foundation, a think tank advising the government, wants Sri Lanka to sell more to Asia which it calls the most dynamic region in the world and recovering fast from the COVD 19 threat.

It also recommends Sri Lanka enlarge preferential market access to attract FDI to promote export growth.

In a media statement, Pathfinder said that since the country has achieved success in “containing the danger posed by the COVID 19” it is time for “a concerted and decisive focus on reviving the economy.”

“This is particularly timely now that the economy has been removed from its “induced coma” with the elimination of daytime curfew throughout the island,” it said.

Last month a Pathfinder Foundation Study Group produced a report which set out a new economic vision for post-COVID-19 Sri Lanka which was shared with the key leaders of the government.

Yesterday in discussions with exporters President Gotabaya Rajapaksa brought up the idea of exploring the Asian region market for Sri Lanka’s exports, according to the Presidential Secretariat.

Pathfinder in its statement noted that the Doha Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations is making no progress and many countries are going for “bilateral, regional and plurilateral trade agreements to boost their growth and employment prospects.”

The think tank says “Sri Lanka has fallen behind and is confronted with the possibility of falling even further behind.”

Although the country has stabilized the situation somewhat after a huge blow was dealt due to fall in remittances, income from tourism, shipping and other sources, it needs to urgently seek export earnings to support the country’s ambitions on growth and employment.

Pathfinder says Sri Lanka “has to work towards a transformation of its export and FDI performance. This has proved elusive so far.  The measures needed to achieve this are well known.  They must now be implemented effectively and trade agreements need to be an integral part of this effort.”

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It predicts that the “shift of the centre of gravity of the global economy to the East is likely to be accelerated in the post-COVID-19 world.  At present, over 50% of Sri Lanka’s exports are to the EU and US.  More needs to be sold to Asia.  In addition, the export basket needs to be more diversified and complex.  Trade agreements provide access to markets, investment and know-how which can catalyse the diversification of both export markets and the product mix.”

It advises the government to treat as “an urgent priority to revive and accelerate the negotiation of a partnership agreement with China; an expanded agreement with India; and an agreement with Thailand.  Agreements with other Asian countries, particularly other ASEAN members and Japan, should also be explored.  Another goal should be maximizing the benefits from the Agreement with Singapore.” (Colombo June 12, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana