Former Prime Minister and leader of the UNP, Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged Sri Lanka to enter into a free trade agreement with India, stating that there was “no option” and that it was necessary to recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus.
Sri Lanka’s economy is expected to decline by 1.5 per cent in 2020 and has witnessed a steep decline of 82 per cent in exports in April 2020 compared to the same month last year. Similarly, Sri Lanka’s apparel exports drop by 81.78 in April when compared to April of last year. This is due to the pandemic which has forced not only a decline in exports but also a shut down of tourism as airports and ports are closed off. Since March 18, Sri Lanka has not seen any new tourists.
The free trade deal with India would see a reduction in trade barriers between the two countries. Commenting on Sri Lanka’s trading relations, Wickremesinghe said;
“…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,”
Wickremesinghe also drew focus on Sri Lanka’s tourism industry stating;
“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”
Sri Lanka earned at least 4 billion US dollars from tourism in 2019 despite the setbacks due to the Easter Sunday bombings.
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