The proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and Sri Lanka, which has been pending since 2008, will be discussed during the three-day visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa beginning on June 8. At a news conference here, Minister of Mass Media and Communication Keheliya Rambukwella, however, said an agreement might be clinched only towards the end of the year.

Mr. Rajapaksa's visit is the first since he was elected President for a second term in January. The political situation in the post-war island nation particularly the issues related to re-settlement of the displaced Tamil civilians and efforts of the government towards a consensus on a political solution to the ethnic conflict would be the focus of talks in New Delhi.

For several days now, there has been speculation in the business circles here on the CEPA and the possibility of a pact. Last week, a group of business persons demonstrated outside the office of the President against signing of CEPA.

The CEPA has been hanging in the balance for nearly two years now. The pact was expected to be signed on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit held in August 2008 and New Delhi had even made an announcement about it.

However, Colombo chose to defer the pact after sections of the business community took up the matter with the President and urged him to exercise caution on the plea that the CEPA could undermine interests of parts of economy.

In his meeting, the Minister pointed out that the government was determined to give an opportunity to the business community, industrialists, investors, importers and exporters and even the consumers to air their views on the CEPA and many other agreements which are scheduled to be signed.

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