The biggest ever Public Private Partnership (PPP) effort in recent history enlisting Sri Lankan exports and its private sector surfaced on 26 April in Colombo and called for the highest political will to move forward. Crucially, a massive international support wave too has been hinted for Sri Lanka's TFA implementation via global agencies, including the World Bank.
"The highest Sri Lankan political will should be there to succeed in this. We are talking win-win here since both the government and the business sector are talking about the same goal" voiced Vice President Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation Donia Hammami on 26 April in Colombo. GATF Vice President Hammami was addressing the launch of Sri Lanka's first ever country session for its exporters and businesses on the historic WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) jointly steered by GATF and International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka. Vice President Hammami leads ICC policy work in Customs and Trade Facilitation at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the world's largest business organization with a network of over 6 million members in more than 100 countries. Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen with Chairman of International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka Keerthi Gunawardane leading the Sri Lankan side at this event.
Vice President Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (GATF) Donia Hammami elaborated on Public Private Partnership for trade led growth. "As for this TFA, we are talking of a common sense package that will reduce trade costs for WTO members by as much as 14.5%, boost exports up to $730 billion, 20 million new jobs across the world, and greater impact on global GDP. As for Sri Lanka, TFA does not focus on quotas and tariff but simplifying procedures and removing inefficiencies. TFA also supports SMEs due to simplified border procedures and trade procedures. These simplifications can boos SME's trade by as much as 80%! Sri Lanka has some advantageous trade processing speed among South Asian countries for example 72 hours' time to import, but when we compare with leading economies such as Singapore, Sri Lanka is still at the bottom. Therefore Sri Lanka's TFA commitment is a great step forward. After two year's grace period, Sri Lanka's Category A type of commitments, should be in best shape. Lots of capacity building support will be made available to Sri Lanka in this TFA effort, and majority of such support from us is focused on Sri Lanka Customs, at this moment. The highest Sri Lankan political will should be there to succeed in this. We are talking win-win here since both the government and the business sector are talking about the same goal."
Calling for the Lankan private sector enlistment in the venture, she said: "The Lankan business community has a key role since they know Sri Lankan situation best. As the private sector, you must make sure your voice is heard in this TFA efforts. This agenda is worth your time and effort. It's a one time in life opportunity. The Sri Lankan TFA Secretariat will do the groundwork. Sri Lanka has notified Category A Commitments, but it needs to work on Category B & C Commitments. These categories needs to be focused on. We await Sri Lanka's confirmation in this."
Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen addressing the event thanked WTO for its ongoing support to Sri Lanka. "I am happy to mention that under the leadership of my Ministry, the Department of Commerce, as the focal point made the necessary arrangements for Sri Lanka to ratify the TFA Agreement and establish the National Trade Facilitation Committee as early as in March 2016" said Minister Bathiudeen and added: "Our way forward is to include early establishment of a resourceful Secretariat of the National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) to lead reforms which are an essential to the ongoing trade liberalization efforts. In fact this can strengthen our 'Ease of Doing Business' rankings and more importantly can bring down export costs significantly. This facility is even now on the verge of being established with the assistance of the World Bank. Early approval of the new Customs Act shall also strengthen the trade facilitation reforms expected under the TFA. The donor assistance is a vital part of in the implementation of "Category C" measures. We are grateful to the World Bank Group for being the principal coordinator of TFA implementation in SL. ITC will focus on strengthening of NTFC and its secretariat. It is Important to avoid duplication of effort by many international agencies in order to achieve the targets with tangible outcomes. International agencies and donor countries can focus on necessary infrastructure developments in the small economies such as Sri Lanka to ensure productive outcome of the implementation of the TFA. I welcome the support of International Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation to strengthen our understanding of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement through this pioneering session. I am pleased that Sri Lanka is one of the 10 countries that the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation support and leverage its resources."
Chairman of International Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka Keerthi Gunawardane thanked GATF for its support to Lankan business sector. "TFA is a great opportunity for our international trade" he said.
World Trade Organisation's Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), agreed in 2013, was the first multilateral trade agreement since the creation of the WTO in 1995. It came in to force this February. The TFA was accepted by 112 member countries including Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is among the WTO members that readily accepted the TFA.