Sri Lanka yet to approve CEPA

B. Muralidhar Reddy

Some items in the concession lists have not been finalised

Businesses express reservations

India surprised over the move

COLOMBO: India is surprised over the announcement here by the Sri Lanka Government that the Indo-Sri Lanka Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is yet to be approved by the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government.

On July 9 Indian Commerce Secretary G. K. Pillai, who was here to hold talks on CEPA with his Sri Lanka counterparts, had announced that the long-pending draft CEPA that would boost not only trade but also open up services and investment sectors had been finalised.

He had even announced that the formal agreement would be signed on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit, scheduled to be held here on August 1 and 2 and to be attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The assertion of Indian Commerce Secretary was not contested by the Sri Lanka Government.

The Government appears to be having second thoughts in view of reservations expressed by a section of the business community as well as some of the coalition partners of the ruling combine. Sri Lanka International Trade Secretary S. Ranugge told the local media that the CEPA was not yet ready to be signed as some of the items in the concession lists were yet to be finalised.

Separately, Information Minister Anura Yapa told reporters on Friday that the Cabinet of Ministers had not yet made a final decision to sign the deal which would have seen the opening of some services in addition to trade in goods.

A partner of the ruling coalition, a breakaway faction of the Marxist-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, which is backing the government, said earlier in the week that Sri Lanka should not sign the deal, as they believed it favoured India.

The main JVP party, which is supporting the government from the outside, while criticising some of their policies, have also opposed the deal.

Those opposing the deal say an existing Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement had resulted in large volumes of Indian imports to the country, expanding the trade deficit with the giant neighbour. Local business interests that fear Indian competition also spoke out against the deal.

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