Colombo: While pushing to fast-track FTAs with India and China, a high-ranking Thai delegation has arrived here to start the third round of Sri Lanka-Thailand Free Trade Agreement negotiations from Monday.
A team comprising 26 official delegates headed by Auramon Supthaweethum, Director General of the Department of Trade Negotiations, Thailand is to start negotiations on Monday and Tuesday with Sri Lanka aiming to strike a balance on trade which is not in favour of the crisis-hit South Asian island nation right now.
The negotiation takes place against the backdrop of a significant trade imbalance in favour of South-East Asia’s tourist hotspot. In 2021, Sri Lanka imported goods from Thailand worth $355 million, but only sent $59 million to Thailand.
“The negotiations will be aimed at enhancing access to our exports not only in the Thai market but also in markets in other ASIAN countries through Thailand’s gateway and lowering current non-tariff trade obstacles to trade,” President’s Media Division (PMD) stated.
The talks will focus on seven theme areas including trade in goods, trade in services, investments, rules of origin, custom cooperation, trade facilitation, and economic cooperation while Sri Lanka hopes to export precious stones and black tea among other goods.
The government’s objective of entering the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which represents 30 per cent of the global population and economy, will be advanced by this agreement, PMD said.
Sri Lanka plans to start the operation with Thailand in the first quarter of 2024 while pushing to conclude talks on proposed FTAs with India and China by June and signing the deals by September.
According to media reports, on the instruction of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka has requested India for dates to begin talks by the end of this month.
In the FTA with India, Sri Lanka’s main focus is on having the quota on apparel exports to India removed, the media report indicated. Sri Lanka has sent a list of nearly 460 export goods including apparel, tea, ceramic items, tiles, coconut oil, and furniture for duty concessions from India and India is to send its own list of goods requesting to remove duties in return.
While exporting goods around $900 million, Sri Lanka imports goods worth nearly $4.3 billion annually from India.
Media reported that the Sri Lankan government has also provided a list of 400 goods to China hoping to get duty concessions under the proposed FTA.
In return, China has asked for duty concessions on some of its exports like fruits, and apparel. To China, Sri Lanka annually exports goods worth around $500 million while getting imports worth around $4.7 billion.