Sri Lanka seeks a six-fold expansion of duty-free access for its apparel in India under ETCA.
Presently, Sri Lankan exporters enjoy duty-free access to export eight million pieces of ready-made apparel to India annually, thanks to the existing India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA). K.J. Weerasinghe, Sri Lanka's International Trade Office Chief Negotiator, emphasized that with the country importing US$ 500 million worth of textile and apparel inputs from India, it would be fair to increase the current duty-free access to a minimum of US$ 250 million per year.
During a seminar organized by the National Chamber of Exporters in Colombo, Weerasinghe underlined the government's firm determination to achieve this goal in the upcoming ETCA negotiations.
Despite a decline in demand for apparel products in Western markets, Sri Lanka's apparel exporters have sought the removal of the quota from India, pending the finalization of the proposed ETCA. However, Weerasinghe clarified that the only viable avenue for increasing or removing the quota is through the proposed ETCA, aimed at deepening the existing free trade agreement between Sri Lanka and India.
Following a four-year hiatus, negotiations for the proposed ETCA agreement resumed during President Ranil Wickremesinghe's recent visit to India, where both countries agreed to reinitiate talks.
Delays in the resumption of ETCA negotiations may arise due to Indian FTA negotiators being engaged in multiple FTA negotiations with various countries, including the United Kingdom (UK) and Bangladesh. In the period between 2016 and 2019, the two countries concluded 11 rounds of bilateral talks on the proposed ETCA.