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Cablegate: Indian High Commission Take On Indo-Lanka Free Trade

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

140434Z Oct 03

UNCLAS COLOMBO 001779

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ECON CE
SUBJECT: INDIAN HIGH COMMISSION TAKE ON INDO-LANKA FREE TRADE
AGREEMENT EXPANSION

REF: COLOMBO 1704

1. (U) THIS TELEGRAM IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, PLEASE
HANDLE ACCORDINGLY

2. (SBU) On October 7, 2003, Econchief met with Mr. Venkastesan
Ashok, Commercial Counselor at the Indian High Commission.
Ashok discussed preparations for the Sri Lankan PM's trip to New
Delhi the week of October 20. In bilateral meetings just
completed in Kandy, Sri Lanka's second largest city, the GOI and
the GSL reportedly agreed on a framework for pursuing an
Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). This agreement would
broaden the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement beyond trade in
goods to include trade in services, investment promotion and
increased economic cooperation.

3. (SBU) Ashok thought that the joint commission that had been
appointed to prepare the framework for EPA negotiations would
finalize its report in time for PM Wickremesinghe and PM
Vajpayee to approve it in their joint statement during
Wickremesinghe's October visit to India. This approval would
then launch formal negotiations, which Ashok thought would last
4-6 months. Ashok said India had recently begun wrapping up
negotiations on a similar agreement with Singapore. The
negotiations on that front took almost 11 months. The Singapore
negotiations, however, provide a framework agreement that the
GOI and GSL can use in their discussions.

4. (SBU) Comment: We find this information interesting in light
of TIFA planning and the potential for a US-Sri Lanka FTA. Much
as the GSL has done with its analysis of the Singapore and Chile
FTAs, they seem to be pursuing a similar strategy with the GOI,
piggy-backing on the GOI-Singapore EPA as a model. Further,
Ashok never mentioned the rancor in Cancun and gave no
indication that Sri Lanka's siding with the USG in Mexico would
have any bearing on the progress of a potential GOI-SL EPA. As
we reported reftel, the GSL's Commerce Minister discussed the
GSL's WTO position with the GOI in Cancun and felt the GOI
understood its position. The Commerce Ministry's Acting
Director General told Econchief on October 8 that India seems
unconcerned about the GSL's stance in Cancun and that the G-23
already appears fragile. End Comment.
LUNSTEAD

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