Sri Lanka on Tuesday said it will fast track its proposed trade agreements with India in order to mitigate the effect of Brexit, notwithstanding opposition from political parties and trade unions. “We hope to fast track the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India and free trade agreement with China. We are also hoping to sign similar trade deals with Japan and South Korea,” Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva said.
De Silva was among those in the government delegation which was sent to the UK to campaign for remain in the EU. The move was criticised by the opposition. De Silva, however, has defended the action as one done in the best interests of Sri Lanka. He told parliament that the UK’s exit from the EU will impact Sri Lanka’s exports to the 28-nation bloc.
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Sri Lanka’s opposition has criticised the proposed trade deal with India as an attempt to “foreignise” the country’s economy and demanded that the shortcomings in the existing free trade agreement should be sorted out before concluding the deal. It said the agreement would be advantageous to India and inimical to Sri Lankan economic interests.
The opposition demands that the agreement include goods, trade in services and investment. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has in the past said that his government will sign the proposed ETCA with India by the middle of this year notwithstanding opposition from political parties and trade unions. He said that it was a misconception that the country would be flooded with Indian workers.
The leave vote of the UK referendum has had an effect on global financial markets and the world economy faced new uncertainties post Brexit.