Ranil urges Sri Lanka to enter into free trade deal with India

Ranil urges Sri Lanka to enter into free trade deal with India

Ranil urges Sri Lanka to enter into free trade deal with India

Written by Staff Writer

31 May, 2020 | 9:53 pm

COLOMBO (News1st): Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said Sri Lanka must enter into a free trade agreement with India, in a bid to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“…the new free trade agreement with India; we must go into that, we have no option,” Wickremesinghe said during an online discussion.

A free trade deal would see a reduction in the barriers to trade between the two countries.

Sri Lanka must enter into new markets, the former prime minister stressed, as the country expects its economy to decline to 1.5 percent by 2020, according to the central bank.

“…we are dependent on the West for our markets. Whether we like it or not, we are not going to wrap up the apparel industry tomorrow,” the leader of the centre-right United National Party said.

Sri Lanka’s exports had declined by 82 percent in April 2020 amidst the pandemic, when compared to the same month last year, with apparel exports dropping drastically as much as 81.78 percent.

The UNP leader also said that it is important to focus on catering towards the tourism industry which is one of the key revenue-generating sectors for the South Asian island, known for its serenity.

“We have to think (about) how we are going to cater to the tourism industry. In the short term, let’s hope that we get more from South Asia,” Wickremesinghe noted.

Sri Lanka has not seen any tourist arrivals since March 18, after it shut down airports and ports, as part of efforts to combat the coronavirus. However, authorities are mulling the reopening of airports by August.

The island nation had earned at least four billion US dollars from the tourism industry last year, despite facing a massive setback due to the terrorist attacks in April.

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