Exposé : Draft of Singapore FTA submitted for cabinet approval was incomplete

Exposé : Draft of Singapore FTA submitted for cabinet approval was incomplete

Written by Staff Writer

03 Jan, 2019 | 10:18 pm

COLOMBO (News 1st) -The report by the committee of experts appointed to review the Singapore FTA has brought certain facts to light.

It reveals that when the draft bill of the FTA was initially submitted to the cabinet, the President had emphasised that the FTA should be in accordance with the National Trade Policy. However, the then cabinet spokesperson publicly stated that Sri Lanka did not have such a policy to begin with.

In the face of continuous inquiries into the matter, the Minister of Development strategies and International Trade published a document titled the “new trade policy” and claimed that the FTA was drafted in accordance with this document. The expert committee stated that this document does not qualify as a National Trade Policy. The report submitted by the committee further notes that the said document has no connections to any other national policies.

The report also reveals that although discussions on the agreement began on the 16th of August 2016, it was only after five rounds of discussions that a cabinet paper was submitted seeking approval for the appointment of a negotiation team. The said approval was given by the cabinet on the 04th of July 2017, almost 11 months after discussions began. The expert committee concludes that discussions on the FTA began without any legal approval.

Further, the report notes that the according to the subject Minister, the final draft of the FTA was submitted for cabinet approval on the 22nd of December 2017. However, reports obtained from the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission reveals that certain conditions of the agreement were also discussed at 4.45 pm on the 12th of January 2018. This only proves that the document presented as the final draft was only an incomplete document.

The report also adds that the Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade should be held responsible for all the mishaps that took place either intentionally or inadvertently.

When Minister Malik Samarawickrama was questioned on the matter of the Singapore FTA earlier today (Jan 3), he refused to make a comment stating that he had only received the report yesterday and that he will hold discussions next week after he analyzes the report.

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