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FTA with Singapore ’good’ for both

Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

FTA with Singapore ’good’ for both

By Jagdish Hathiramani

22 November 2009

A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Singapore would be beneficial because it would result in more opportunities with Sri Lanka, currently attempting to develop itself as a hub to India and a financial hub ; particularly due to the country’s existing respective FTAs with India and with Pakistan, a top Singapore businessman has said.

Furthermore this would be useful because of Singapore’s status as a regional hub through which Sri Lankan companies could better access ASEAN, especially with many of the region’s companies now being headquartered in Singapore, according to Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SICCI) Chairman, Vijay Iyengar, who spoke to the Sunday Times on Wednesday on the sidelines of the inaugural official "Singapore Business Mission to Sri Lanka", which he headed. Comprising 18 top Singaporean executives representing a diverse range of business interests, from tourism to timber to agriculture, retail, veterinary products, financial, legal, marine, shipping, trading and apparels ; and beginning on November 16, this week long mission encompassed briefings by the country’s Central Bank, the Board of Investment, the National Chambers of Commerce of Sri Lanka and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce based in Colombo as well as visits to Kandy and Dambulla for discussions with local chambers of commerce.

Mr. Iyengar added that SICCI’s mission, which was initially prompted by good reports from an earlier visit by Singapore’s Foreign Minister, was also in response to Sri Lanka’s increasing stability as well as due to the process of national reconciliation being underway. These developments singled out Sri Lanka from a number of emerging markets which Singaporean companies had earmarked for their investment potential. He further indicated that this was helped along by the country’s labour position, especially skilled labour ; government priorities on investments in tourism, agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, etc ; and, "particularly", the India and Pakistan FTA’s.