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Sri Lanka seeks Thai support to join RCEP

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Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC yesterday said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe himself had reached out to Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin during his recent visit regarding Sri Lanka’s application to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).  

He had sought the intervention and support of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states towards opening and broadening the Sri Lankan export market to other countries. Minister Sabry said this when asked by the Daily News about what steps have been taken and efforts and discussions made to reach out to the ASEAN member states including Thailand to get their support on getting the application made by Sri Lanka to RCEP accepted, during the media briefing held yesterday (6) on the outcome of the official visit of the Prime Minister of Thailand Srettha Thavisin to Sri Lanka.

Minister Sabry said that he has reached out to all the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN member state countries to get their support towards reaching out to RCEP through ASEAN including the incumbent Chairman of the ASEAN who is the Foreign Minister of Laos while in Brussels, receiving positive supportive responses and assurances from all of them.

Sabry said that all of the ASEAN member states are very positive towards Sri Lanka’s application to RCEP, but since this is the first time after the initial establishment of RCEP where another country which is Sri Lanka has made an application to join, they are inventing the new procedure and that he has already met with the Secretary General of ASEAN regarding this matter and they are all very keen and very supportive with their full assurance given to Sri Lanka and therefore, he is very confident that Sri Lanka will be able to clinch the membership and to be accepted into RCEP.

The Minister said that Sri Lanka is currently in a very strong position to broaden its export economy outside of the country in to the world by signing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with as many other countries as possible that have growing economies with the rest of the world and by joining the RCEP, the country will get the chance to reach out to wider number of countries connected with RCEP by having FTAs with them.

In response to another question raised by Daily News on what benefits Sri Lanka will reap by joining RCEP through ASEAN, Minister Sabry explained saying that the whole idea is they are trying to make the whole export market bigger. It is not only looking at the Sri Lankan 22 billion market but to compare that with the 86 trillion of the world GDP against 78 Billion of the Sri Lankan GDP which is extremely small in comparison.

He said that efforts are being made to reach out to the larger market outside which the country has not been able to do which is the precise problem that has been identified at the right opportune time. In 1991 the Bangladesh economy out of exports alone was 4 billion and by now it has grown to 60 billion. And Vietnam which was 4 billion in 1991 is having an export economy of 373 billion in 2022, Sabry said. However, Sri Lanka remains with an export economy of only 12 to 14 billion whereas the country used to have a competing similar economy out of exports of USD 3 billion back then in 1991 with Bangladesh having a USD 3 billion export economy and Vietnam having USD 4 to 5 billion. The Minister said what all these countries have consistently done right to boost their economy since then is having the Free Trade Agreements which has helped them to achieve consistent economic growth where lies the reason why Sri Lanka is still lagging way behind due to not having Free Trade Agreements with countries having strong and growing economies which has now been addressed.

The Foreign Minister said that all efforts are made by working towards getting the best for the country by creating the conducive atmosphere and the infrastructure for the Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to venture out and create a bigger market for the country as well as get infusion of foreign investments which is very important because Sri Lanka doesn’t have the capital to become world beaters and that capital inflow has to come and it will not come if the country continues to conduct business only with the Sri Lankan market of 22 million people within. Therefore, Sri Lanka has to open its market out to the other markets outside the country which can be only achieved through signing more and more Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with other countries that have strong markets and economies, he said.

There is provision for Thailand to own in Sri Lanka a Free Trade Zone and for them to carry out their manufacturing here, not to serve Sri Lanka with their productions but to serve outside the country with their exports manufactured here, the Minister said. And how Sri Lanka will benefit from it is similar to the way how the country benefited through what the Koreans did before by setting up textile factories which benefitted Sri Lanka initially in terms of technological knowhow, technology transfer, employment, and thereafter the Lankans will know, learn from them and then proceed to establish their own Sri Lankan brands as exports to the outside world just like the Koreans did to compete with Japanese vehicles and Japanese electronics, he said.

Minister Sabry said that opportunities are plenty for the Sri Lankan market to grow by reaching out to the outside world and Sri Lanka needs to see it that way positively without having fear for change or without remaining as prisoners of the past. He said that Sri Lanka has to come out of its closed protectionist economy to become a totally open economy and grab the vast economy available outside in the world and that is the only solution.

The Foreign Minister pointed out that the President has a vision to make Sri Lanka open out to have a broad economy based on exports connecting with the rest of the world in order to boost the country’s economy as there is no other alternative for the country to come out of the current economic crisis.

The post Sri Lanka seeks Thai support to join RCEP appeared first on DailyNews.

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