Proposed Indo-Lanka Economic Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) & Protecting the Local Engineering Sector from Its Ill Effects

CEPA Agreement which has been coming to surface time to time from year 2002 has come up again in different attire as ETCA (Economic & Technology Cooperation Agreement). This change itself is a tactical move to nullify the previous opposition on CEPA & this time it’s a high speed version. ECTA is backed by a heavy influence from the Indian counterpart & this time comes in stages. The Framework Agreement is planned to sign in February 2016 & the Complete Agreement will be signed in May 2016 (During the Indian PM’s next SL visit).

Though the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed between the two countries in the year 2000 has not yielded its intended outcome to the Sri Lankan economy, without correction its issues, Sri Lanka is forced to liberalize the more sensitive & more risky area like ‘trade-in services’ (including the free movement of people) with India. This crucial agreement will negatively affect our engineering profession & engineering sector while affecting the other professional sectors too.

Without the participation of the expert professionals & the relevant professional bodies it’s surprising how a few officers in the Department of Trade & Commerce has drafted an agreement related to unknown sectors including engineering. This is essentially very dangerous when drafting a wider bi-lateral agreement with a powerful counterpart like India.

We as the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL) & Sri Lankan Engineers’ Association (SLEA) together with several other professional institutions in the country lobbied our voice against ETCA for the last few months requesting the government to hold it temporarily. We voluntarily agreed in writing to offer our active participation, on the request of the government, to work jointly as professional groups in order to draft the sector related chapters of the agreement. Nevertheless the government has not deviating from its firm stance & confirmed that ETCA will be signed this year.

However due to the strong opposition against ETCA lobbied by one of our brother organizations, GMOA (Government Medical Officers Association), the government was forced to step backwards & gave an assurance to the GMOA that the health sector related areas in ETCA will be removed. This is the way that the government reacts to the opposition of a stronger professional party with great bargaining power.

The field of engineering can be considered as one of the highly adversely effected professional sectors by ETCA. The first two areas of liberalization of trade-in services also will be from engineering, namely Information Technology (IT) & Ship Building. The other areas of engineering too will be liberalized subsequently in stages.

As professional engineers it’s our duty today to defeat ETCA which will be an absolute danger for our sector if signed within this year as planned. We as the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL) & Sri Lankan Engineers’ Association (SLEA) jointly make this effort to gather all engineering professional associations/ engineering unions under a single umbrella as a strong community which are now scattered all around the island. This effort is to achieve the intended target which is beneficial for all.

As the first step, we, as IESL & SLEA jointly invite you to participate for this joint forum to be educated on this & discuss about the future action plan collectively. Therefore please be present/ send your representatives for the below event without fail.

Location   :     Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL)

120/15, Wijerama Road, Colombo 07

 Date         :     20/ 1 /2016 (Wednesday)

Time          :     4.00 pm to 6.00 pm