India to import 30 lakh garments from Sri Lanka

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Colombo, Feb 11 (UNI) Assuring Sri Lanka of permission to export 30 lakh pieces of garments, India today expressed its readiness to address concerns of neighbouring countries on non-tariff barriers.

Speaking at Indo-Sri Lankan investment seminar here, Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh said of 50 such barriers notified by India's trading partners in SAFTA, while some are routine international practices, other rules and regulations for imports by India would be made simple and transparent.

He said India has already begun the process and it will unfold at the third SAFTA ministerial meeting to be held in New Delhi on March 3.

India is ready to accredit and recognise testing and certification done by laboratories and institutions in all SAARC countries that meet Indian norms and standards, he added.

India has already started acting on it as is obvious in case of import of cement from Pakistan and textiles from Bangladesh, adding certification and testing for these imports by India was done in the neighbouring countries.

Describing free trade agreement (FTA) between India and Sri Lanka since 2000 a success story in spite of some irritants, Mr Ramesh said Sri Lanka's imports from India have halved to about five times of its exports in 2007 from ten times in 2000.

Stating that trade is not just about economics but also politics, he said if Sri Lanka has accomodated India's concerns on pepper and vanaspati, India would have reciprocated to Sri Lanka's requests on garments.

''I expect the formal announcement very soon allowing, to begin with, three million pieces of garments to be imported into India from Sri Lanka without any restrictions on source of fabrics or on port of entry,'' Mr Ramesh said.

He said Sri Lanka has not taken full advantage of the Indian market as most of the 4,150 tariff lines with zero duty remain unutilised.

He urged Sri Lanka to diversify its export basket to India which is currently dominated by non-ferrous metals and vanaspati.

On converting FTA into a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which has been under negotiations since February 2005 with 11 rounds of discussions having been completed.

The Indian Minister suggested Sri Lanka to set deadlines for themselves they consider realistic and then work together with India to meet these deadlines.

He said India is opening tourism, IT, shipping and logistics which is of great interest to Sri Lanka. He hoped the two countries will be able to sign CEPA by April.

India accounts for 10 per cent of Sri Lanka's exports and about 15 per cent of imports. Sri Lanka contributes about three per cent of India's exports and about 0.6 per cent of imports.

On investment in Sri Lanka, India has moved up to number three from number 7 seven years ago. Sri Lankan investments are also taking shape in India. Brandix Apparels is planning to invest about 650 million dollar in the Vizag SEZ, while another Sri Lankan's textile star MAS Holdings is planning to invest around 200 million dollar in an apparel park in Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh.

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