SL keen to sign FTA with China – Kodituwakku

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By 2018-02-14

Sri Lankan Ambassador to China Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku said that Sri Lanka is determined to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China when negotiations are concluded, despite the concerns raised regarding the tariff liberalization programme.

In an interview with Global Times, he also disagreed with the notion that China and Sri Lanka have been hasty about FTA talks.

According to him, thus far, six rounds of negotiations have taken place with the teams engaged in the negotiations being professionals from both the countries. It is proposed to hold the seventh round of negotiations in Colombo shortly.

"It is true that the tariff liberalization programme, or tariff elimination under the FTA, has raised concern among stakeholders in certain sectors. However, we need increased market access to China for our products currently being exported and exports that will be generated through investment in Sri Lanka from China. Therefore, we need to take into account these different interests and strike a balance in the proposed modality for tariff liberalization. These aspects of the tariff liberalization modality are currently being analyzed and we need to be creative to find alternative solutions to these issues."

Speaking about the China-funded Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, he noted that the future contribution it can make to the economy will depend on its business value.

"That is why we were looking for some partners like the one we had for the sea port in Hambantota. We want to invite partners for a 'public-private partnership'."

On the question of foreign investments,
Dr. Kodituwakku added that they expected foreign investment to create more employment and income opportunities to enhance export earnings and transfer advanced technology. He also pointed out that Sri Lanka is cooperating fully with the Chinese Government to make the Maritime Silk Road a success.

"For South Asia, which has a population of 1.5 billion, there is no international financial centre, so we want to fill that vacuum, converting the Colombo Port City into a financial city.

And we will be inviting more and more investors, not only from China, but also from all over the world who are in the finance business, so it could be a very important project under the Belt and Road initiative. Sri Lanka will be the core centre for the region's financial business."

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