Now is the time for China FTA: EDB Chairman
Given the global economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, now is the most suitable time for Sri Lanka to resume negotiations on its proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China, Export Development Board (EDB) Chairman Prabhash Subasinghe believes.
“We should fast track the Chinese FTA. This is the time to do that,” he told The Sunday Morning Business on Friday (27).
China is the world’s second largest economy and an FTA with it has been coveted by Sri Lanka for many years. Negotiations on this FTA finally commenced in 2016, but had come to a virtual standstill by 2018.
While acknowledging that it could not be looked at immediately due to the prevailing situation, Subasinghe added that it should be the top priority of the Government as far as the export sector is concerned once Covid-19 is eradicated from the island.
While Sri Lanka has virtually no bargaining power on the economic front during negotiations with China, he was of the opinion that the island should leverage its strategic geopolitical positioning to obtain a fair and mutually beneficial trade agreement.
“China has a lot of interest in Sri Lanka. Their interest in Sri Lanka is something we should use and take advantage of. We should be negotiating from a position of strength,” Subasinghe noted.
He added that as Sri Lanka has a negative trade balance with China and is insignificant in terms of economic strength; the world’s second largest economy would not mind providing us free access to their market.