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The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies recently hosted a Foreign Policy Round Table titled ‘Managing Effective Trade—Sri Lanka and International Experiences’ on 4 September 2018. This round table supported by The Asia Foundation featured Professor Sirimal Abeyratne, University of Colombo; Dr. Amitendu Palit, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore (ISAS); and Ms. Elizabeth Ward, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australia (DFAT).
In his presentation, Prof. Abeyratne highlighted the current economic policy strategy and the potential opportunities from stronger regional and global trade links for Sri Lanka. He emphasised that Sri Lanka must overcome domestic economic challenges to take advantage of Sri Lanka’s national trade policy.
Dr. Palit explored Asia’s free trade agreements (FTAs), particularly the investment opportunities that the recently signed Singapore-Sri Lanka FTA had to offer. He further noted the impact of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP) on India and China, and considered how Sri Lanka could potentially develop its burgeoning trade links with China and India.
Ms. Ward shared a brief history of Australia’s trade climate and lessons from its trade agreement negotiations. She attributed Australia’s success with agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership to its team of experienced negotiators, comprising government officials, economists and graduates. Ms. Ward noted that it would be beneficial for Sri Lanka to engage in trade agreements across the Indian Ocean, and build domestic capacity for effective negotiating strategies for future trade negotiations.
The subsequent discussion moderated by Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja, Executive Director (Actg.) and Chair of the Global Economy Programme at LKI, focused on Sri Lanka’s potential as a regional trade power, the repercussions of the ‘America First’ policy, China’s involvement in the Asia-Pacific region, and gaps in Sri Lanka’s human capital.
Participants included Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the World Bank, embassies, and members of the private sector and media.