The fourth round of negotiations on the proposed Sri Lanka-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (SLTFTA) was held in Colombo from 27 to 29 March 2023. This initiative aligns with the President’s vision of enhancing economic relations with large and emerging economies, with a particular focus on ASEAN countries.
On March 26, a 35-member Thai delegation led by Ms. Auramon Supathaweethum, Director General of the Department of Trade Negotiations, arrived in Sri Lanka for the fourth round of talks. Along with their focus on trade negotiations, the delegation also strengthened the long-standing religious and cultural ties between the two countries by offering over 500 alms-bowls to the Gangarama temple on the same day.
The National Trade Negotiations team representing Sri Lanka at the talks was led by Mr. K. J. Weerasinghe, the Chief Negotiator of the Presidential Secretariat. The team comprised officials from various departments, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Food Security, Ministry of Industry, Department of Trade and Investment Policy, Attorney General’s Department, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, Central Bank of Sri Lanka and Board of Investment of Sri Lanka. They participated in the negotiations on behalf of Sri Lanka.
During the third round of negotiations in January, discussions on the proposed Sri Lanka-Thailand Free Trade Agreement focused on areas such as trade in goods, trade in services, investment, rules of origin, customs cooperation, trade facilitation, and economic cooperation. The fourth round of talks will build on the principles already agreed upon, and delve deeper into these areas. Additionally, discussions will be held on trade remedies, technical barriers to trade (TBT), and legal matters.
Prior to the fourth round of negotiations, the National Trade Negotiations Committee and relevant sub-committees engaged in discussions with various industry sectors and stakeholders. The points raised during these discussions were taken into consideration and used appropriately during the fourth round of talks.
The Sri Lankan negotiating team’s goals for the talks focussed not only to increase Sri Lankan exports’ access to the Thai market, but also to improve market access to other ASEAN countries through the Thai market, and to reduce existing non-tariff barriers. The Sri Lankan Government hopes to sign the agreement in the first quarter of 2024.