Sri Lanka will never sign CEPA with India, but open to new pact, says PM Wickremesinghe

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Sri Lanka will never sign CEPA with India, but open to new pact, says PM Wickremesinghe

Colombo: Sri Lanka will never sign
the long-pending CEPA with India
mooted during the previous
Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on
Wednesday told Parliament but said
Colombo will instead enter into a
new economic and technology pact
with its neighbour in 2016.
Wickremesinghe's clarification in
the Sri Lankan Parliament came a
day after trade union of state doctors
– Government Medical Officers
Association (GMOA) – claimed that
the government is trying to sign the
Comprehensive Economic
Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with
India under a new name.
"Our government will never sign the
CEPA agreement under any
circumstance, and that it won't be
signed under another name," he said
and lashed out at GMOA for
"misleading its members and the
public" by making baseless
statements.
He said the government does not
agree with the clauses that were
included in CEPA by Rajapaksa
government and the "harmful"
agreement has been completely
removed.
He said the government will instead
enter into an economic and technical
cooperation agreement (ETCA) with
India that is favorable to Sri Lanka.
Wickremesinghe said the new pact
will replace CEPA.
The ETCA will not have most of
CEPA features which were seen as
inimical to Sri Lankan interests, he
said, adding that the new pact will
create employment opportunities for
hundreds of thousands of
unemployed youth in the country.
The Prime Minister's statement
followed Tuesday's statement by
Foreign Trade Minister Malik
Samarawickrema that the framework
agreement would be signed in
January.
There will be negotiations lasting
five to six months, Wickremesinghe
clarified.
The government will hold discussion
with trade unions and political
parties and will seek the approval of
the Cabinet before finalising any
agreement, he said.
He said a Sri Lankan negotiating
team is due to visit New Delhi on 21
December for preliminary
discussions.
The CEPA has been in the works for
several years but talks have proved
futile as Sri Lanka's services sector
have voiced apprehension over the
pact's perceived advantages to India.
A decision to set up a Joint Study
Group for making recommendations
for CEPA was first announced in
April 2003 and its report was
submitted in October 2003.
Since then both countries have held
several rounds of negotiations.
Despite the FTA being in force for 17
years, the trade balance continues to
remain in favour of India.
India emerged as Sri Lanka's largest
trading partner in 2012, accounting
for 20 percent of that country's
imports and 5.6 per cent of exports.
The bilateral trade in 2013-14 was
USD 5.23 billion of which Indian
exports accounted for USD 3.98
billion.
 

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