India, Sri Lanka to sign economic pact by mid-2016


India and Sri Lanka are set to galvanise their economic ties by signing the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) by mid-2016.  Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made the announcement in parliament on February 24. He had been criticised for going ahead with the deal by political parties and trade unions. The announcement comes after a spate of high level visits between the leaders of both countries over the past one year which has reinvigorated the ties.

During his address to the Parliament, Mr Wickremesinghe said that an Indian delegation would visit Sri Lanka  in early  March to finalise the draft agreement and stressed that the government would  go ahead and sign it despite facing stiff resistance from political parties, trade unions and professional groups. 

Clearing the misconception that Sri Lanka would be flooded with Indian workers, Mr Wickremesinghe said:  “What we are trying to sign will be better than the CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement). CEPA was to include services.  We did not accept that. So the Indians coming here and threatening our jobs is not true. There will be more job opportunities for Sri Lankans.”

During his face off with the opponents of the agreement, Mr Wickremesinghe had branded them as “traitors”. “We have not got a document just yet. This will not be done in secrecy,” Mr Wickremesinghe said 

The opposition in Sri Lanka had criticised the proposed deal with India as an attempt to “foreignise” the country’s economy and demanded that the shortcomings in the existing agreement should be sorted out before concluding the deal.  It added that agreement would be advantageous to India and would impact  Sri Lanka’s economic interests.

Some of the opposition members have been demanding that the agreement include goods, trade in services and investment.  However, most trade unions and several other employees’ organisations have taken to the streets to protest the ETCA with India.

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