Merry-go round

Merry-go Round

29 October 2004

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are hoping to have another go at the belated free trade agreement between the two countries in November.

“We are hoping to have the next round of negotiations back-to-back with the SAARC secretaries meeting in Islamabad, in November,” said an official from the Commerce Department.

Pakistan is yet to confirm the proposed meeting but even now Sri Lanka’s trade negotiators are reworking her list of commitments to align it with present government policies.

The framework agreement of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan FTA was signed in August 2002 but with a change of government in April this year, Sri Lanka is back at the drawing board.

Pakistan too is yet to confirm her final lists.

At the moment Sri Lanka has a negative list of 676 items and an immediate zero duty list of 78 items.

A majority of the items in both lists are in the corresponding lists of the Indo-Lanka FTA.

At the other end, Pakistan is yet to confirm her final negative list but is willing to provide Sri Lanka with zero duty access, immediately, to 202 items.

Under the liberalisation schedule, as it stands, Sri Lanka is bound to bring tariffs down to zero over a period of five years from the date of implementation of the FTA while Pakistan must do so in three years.

But at this point Sri Lanka is busy reshuffling her lists to complement the latest government policies.

The two countries met a few months earlier in June, in Colombo but could not close the trade pact.

“If the two countries can agree on the schedules at the November meeting the FTA can be implemented within two or three months,” says the Commerce Department.

- Dilshani Samaraweera: dilshanis@vanguardlanka.com

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