The Nation | 28 March 2015
India denies pushing SL to sign CEPA
By Arthur Wamanan
The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka last week denied reports that the country was pushing Sri Lanka to revive the much discussed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) solely due to the former’s interest.
Recent media reports in Sri Lanka indicated that India’s Premier, Narendra Modi was pushing for CEPA’s revival for the benefit of India. A spokesperson to the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka denied reports that India was forcing Sri Lanka to sign the agreement for its own interests. The spokesperson added that the agreement was between two independent countries and India had no reason to push Sri Lanka to sign an agreement without the consent of the latter.
The spokesperson stated that the agreement would be signed following extensive discussions and only if both parties were happy with its content.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the country earlier this month first suggested the possibilities of reviving talks on CEPA and assured that mechanisms would be placed in a way that Sri Lanka was not affected.
Sri Lanka had however expressed concerns over the agreement on the basis that it would be disadvantageous to Sri Lanka as it would not allow an equal playing field. Recent media reports in Sri Lanka also indicated that the idea to sign the agreement was mooted by India for its own benefits.
Business leaders in Sri Lanka emphasized the need for a dispute resolution mechanism to be set up by both countries in order to discuss the concerns raised by Sri Lanka.
Speaking at business forum attended by Modi, Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), Suresh Shah stated that the concerns were mainly centered around three aspects, namely mutual recognition of standards, non-tariff barriers and testing procedures. “It is our hope that these issues are put to rest fast and we call upon both governments to set up a high powered dispute resolution mechanism to do so,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has stated that no official talks pertaining to the agreement had commenced so far. Secretary to the Ministry of Highways, Higher Education and Investment promotion, U.R. Seneviratne told The Nation Gain that talks were yet to commence officially on the issue and no comments could be made until such time.
Talks on CEPA first commenced in 2005 and continued for 13 rounds until 2008. Both countries had decided to sign the agreement during the 15th SAARC Summit which was held in Colombo in 2008. However, it is yet to be signed owing to reservations by the Government on certain aspects of the content of the agreement.
Meanwhile, business communities and corporates have commenced discussions among themselves on how Sri Lanka could be part of the agreement while not being deprived of facilities and concessions given through the agreement.