PNF responds to Gomi Senadhira: WTO report cannot be accepted as Lanka’s trade policy


Apropos ‘Govt. urged to adhere to WTO-approved trade policy with strap line ‘SLSFTA debacle exposed Lanka’s weaknesses’ on Feb 08, 2020 edition of The Island, Engineer Suran Fernando, Vice President of Professionals’ National Front (PNF), has sent us the following statement: "The report based on comments by onetime Director General of Commerce, Gomi Senadhira are inaccurate and misleading. A document in the WTO website titled ‘Report by the Secretariat’ cannot be accepted as the ‘National Trade Policy’ of Sri Lanka under any circumstances.

"The World Trade Organization (WTO) has a surveillance mechanism on the trade practices of its member countries. This is called the ‘Trade Policy Review Mechanism’ (TPRM). As a 3rd party, here the WTO’s role is to examine how the international trade has been driven by a member country and its compatibility with WTO trade regime.  This review is not a bad thing at all. But one cannot say that their report is our national trade policy. Mind you, this report is prepared by the WTO staff. If Mr. Senadhira’s statement is correct, then what is our sovereignty as a nation?"

Also this WTO report analyses the trade performance of a country within the past 6 years. In contrast, a national trade policy is a document for future, explaining the nation’s vision to navigate trade developments, not about the past. We need to understand that clearly. 

Professionals of this country requested the consecutive governments to initiate afresh ‘National Trade Policy’ with the consultation of all stake holders. We fought hard against the dubious 25-page document that former Minister Malik Samarawickrama got passed in parliament in August 2017 as the ‘New Trade Policy’. That was passed in a hurry just to show that the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that they planned to sign are legal. However, this so-called trade policy was rejected by everyone.

Now Mr. Senadhira says that a report published by WTO once in every 6 years is our NTP. This is a wrong statement which will mislead the public. No other nation will consider these review reports as their NTPs. They have developed their own NTPs with greater efforts. For instance, India has published its own Foreign Trade Policy 2015-2020 with a greater vision on its future trade. If Sri Lanka wants to draft an NTP we can consider the Indian one as a guideline. If Sri Lanka can create a visionary NTP together with the necessary amendments to the legal framework, the future trade can be streamlined and regularised while safeguarding the national interest."

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