Sri Lanka to push for US free trade deal

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka wants push for a free trade deal with the United States and also use foreign policy to gain economic benefits for the country, Deputy Economic Development Minister Harsha de Silva said.

 

"The US FTA (Free Trade Agreement) is something we need to aggressively push we have already started talking to some people on it," de Silva told a forum of exporters in Colombo.

He said in the meantime bilateral discussions on the United States-Sri Lanka Trade Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) should continue.

De Silva said foreign policy should be used for the benefit of the country.

"Foreign policy and trade policy cannot be in two separate silos," he explained. "We cannot say the Europeans and Americans are conspiring to throw the government over when at the same time our exports are going to Europe and the United States."

"So you have to overlay your trade policy and economic policy on your broader foreign policy."

He said a planned FTA with China would also be leveraged to expand trade with other countries.

De Silva said Sri Lanka’s United National Party, which he represented had built very close relations with China and a rubber-rice pact was signed in the 1950s by a UNP administration.

The Rubber-Rice pact was signed during a global inflation bubble and the Korean War where China paid higher than market prices for Sri Lanka’s rubber and the island got rice at a lower price.

During the Rajapaksa regime trade protectionism had increased, which had also led to a decline in overall export competitiveness he said.