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1998 FTA Sri Lanka’s most significant bond with India

November, 28, 2017

No partnership between India and Sri Lanka is as strong as the historic Indo-Lanka trade pact inked way back in 1998.

“Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement was the most significant Indo-Sri Lanka partnership we have realised on the commercial front” said the Sri Lankan Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 18 November in Chennai.

Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the inaugural event of the UEF Trade Summit 2017 at the Chennai Trade Centre, Tamil Nadu on 18 November. The event, the second edition in the series organized by the United Economic Forum was unveiled by the Minister for Finance of Government of Jammu and Kashmir Haseeb A. Drabu. UEF is currently led by Ahmed A.R.Buhari Founder President and CEO of Dubai based Coal and Oil Group (C&O).

“The most significant Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA) played a crucial role in shaping Sri Lanka’s subsequent economic integration with other countries in the region” said Minister Bathiudeen, and added: “We signed it in 1998. Undoubtedly this was the most significant Indo-Sri Lanka partnership we have realised on the commercial front. I am sure that the ISFTA played a crucial role as a catalyst that shaped our subsequent economic integration that the other countries in the region. With the ISFTA becoming operational in year 2000, the value of Indo-Lanka bilateral trade has increased in an unprecedented manner from USD 650 mn in 2000, to close to USD 5 Bn by 2016.”

In 2016, Lankan exports to India totaled US $ 551.2  Mn of which 68% ($375.2 Mn) were exports under ISFTA. Sri Lanka’s top five exports -both under ISFTA and out of it-to India last year were pepper , animal feeds, nuts,  paper / paperboard and ships & vessels. Total bilateral trade for last year was $4.37 Bn while from January-August this year it reported $3.26 Bn. Sri Lanka’s leading import item from India (for the past 5 years) has been petroleum oil.

Indian Industry and Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu stressed of the importance of collaboration in national policy formulation. “We must think about policies in a very comprehensive manner and that means a lot of stakeholders need to be consulted” noted Minister Prabhu, and added: “That means the government cannot just frame the policies within the four walls of a Ministry."

The first ever UEF Summit was held in 2015 in Chennai. Amon those who addressed Chennai’s UEF 2017 was O Panneerselvam -the Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu government, who said that the TN New Industrial Policy launched in 2014 is now being reworked.

The United Economic Forum,  a Chamber of Commerce was founded by Alhaj Dr B.S. Abdur Rahman, a Visionary and an Educationist, aims to develop entrepreneurs, offering them the latest in training, technology as well as access to emerging opportunities, innovations, rising markets, government concessions and facilitating project finance including Shariah-compliant funds.

From left: Minister for Finance of Government of Jammu and Kashmir Haseeb A. Drabu, Founder President and CEO of Dubai based Coal and Oil Group (C&O) and also leader of UEF Ahmed A.R.Buhari and Sri Lankan Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen (third from left) at UEF Trade Forum 2017 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on 18 November.