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FTA will benefit common man too, says Kadirgamar

Daily News, Colombo

FTA will benefit common man too, says Kadirgamar

from Pramod de Silva in Islamabad

11 February 2005

The Sri Lanka-Pakistan FTA will benefit not only the business communities but also the ordinary people in both countries, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said.

In an interview with the Daily News, Kadirgamar said the common man will be able to buy many products at duty free prices soon. For example, Sri Lankans will be able to buy Pakistani oranges cheaply and Pakistanis will be able to enjoy a good cup of Ceylon Tea at very affordable prices.

The Minister, who signed the FTA on behalf of Sri Lanka, said Sri Lankan betel growers would especially benefit as Pakistan was planning to buy 1,200 tons of the produce at a preferential margin of 35 per cent.

"Economic ties between both countries will improve swiftly from now on. The FTA itself will be expanded as time goes on," he added.

Pakistan will soon be holding a single country trade fair and exhibition in Colombo. He stressed that Sri Lanka was aiming to form a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Pakistan.

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s trade ties with the wider world, the Minister said negotiations were under way to sign FTAs with several countries in the region as well as elsewhere in the world. Sri Lanka was also keen to ensure the full implementation of the South Asia Free Trade Area.

Referring to the meeting between President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and World Bank Chief James D. Wolfensohn in Islamabad, Kadirgamar said the discussions focused on funding for the reconstruction of tsunami-hit areas.

The World Bank Chief has stressed the importance of maintaining accountability and transparency in this process.

There was a growing apprehension that funds collected by NGOs may not be reaching the intended recipients or targets. "Wolfensohn urged us to make sure that there are adequate measures to track these funds.

After all these are public funds or monies collected from the people in various countries - they must reach the people and areas affected by the tsunami," the Minister said.

The President reassured the World Bank Chief that Sri Lanka has already devised mechanisms for this purpose.