The 13th AGM of Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) was held recently. Prominent among the speakers was Noel Priyathilake, outgoing president of the forum. He said Sri Lankan authorities must request India for removal of quotas imposed on textile and apparel sectors. Citing the reason, he said that this was to create a sectoral balance in trade between the two countries whereby Sri Lanka would have a high potential to cater to emerging middle income population in India. However, if the removal of apparel quota is not done local apparel industry would not see significant benefit through the proposed Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA).
Bilateral trade happened to be a priority item in their agenda. He said Singapore was not an important trading destination yet, and they have not offered significant market access to Sri Lanka. The country is now targeting more towards regional economic partnerships or regional economic integration. The Asian focus of these negotiations would be culminated in a strong manner depending on the way the new US administration focuses on fair bilateral trade in place of regional partnerships. Perhaps, this approach may change the trade development agenda and Asia will become important even within our trade and Big Asia may be writing the trade rules for the world if they foster strong regional or Asian economic partnerships.