The commission`s results, published in December 2018, were extremely critical, with officials saying that activities such as the SLSFTA would not benefit local businesses until Sri Lanka reformed its economy to make them more competitive. “Only national economic reforms aimed at national development objectives will remove restrictions on competition,” he said. At the end of this mandate, a consultation procedure was adopted, during which members of the House were properly consulted. The agreement highlights Singapore`s serious research and investment partners beyond East Asia and demonstrates recognition of Sri Lanka`s potential as a commercial hub in the fast-growing Indian Ocean region. The agreement is also the result of Sri Lanka`s post-conflict trade policy to boost growth and strengthen relations with East Asia. To strengthen economic relations, Sri Lanka and Singapore signed a bilateral free trade agreement on 23 January 2018. Despite decades of cordial diplomatic relations between the two islands, Singapore accounted for only 1.1% of Sri Lanka`s exports and 5.3% of imports in 2016. The agreement is the first comprehensive trade pact signed by the government beyond goods, covering services, investments, health and plant health measures, technical barriers to trade, trade, dispute settlement, customs cooperation, public procurement, e-commerce and intellectual property rights. The SLSFTA is also important because it is part of the government`s broader “look east” initiative to establish new trade relations and reduce the country`s dependence on the export markets of the EU and the United States. For Sri Lanka, the SLSFTA promised more investment, with government officials saying it would open up more trade and boost manufacturing and services.
11 Sri Lanka Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade. Free trade agreement between the Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka and the Republic of Singapore. Available at modsit.gov.lk/32-uncategorised/115-free-trade-agreement-between-the-democratic-socialist-republic-of-sri-lanka-and-the-republic-of-singapore.html. However, the Department of Development Strategies and International Trade should have engaged in a much more robust process, with consistent cross-communication with all stakeholders involved in the SLSFTA. A more structured approach would have given more confidence to stakeholders in the process. We are encouraged by the cabinet`s decision of July 31, 2018 to institutionalize the Trade Negotiations Committee for future trade negotiations.