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09 December, 2015 09:11 AM Source: Financial Times - Sri Lanka
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The Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry yesterday rejected statements made by the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) that the Government was attempting to sign an agreement with India that would significantly affect the services industry.
The full statement released by the Ministry is given below:
GMOA misrepresentation in the press serves to undermine the trust and confidence necessary between the Government and professional associations to ensure that the interests of professionals are well protected in the negotiations on the proposed Indo-Lanka Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA).
Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama held constructive discussions with several professional organisations on the negotiation of the Services Chapter of the proposed ETCA. At the invitation of the Minister, the professional organisations present at the meeting agreed to nominate a representative group of three to four persons to work with relevant Government officials to ensure that the outcome of the negotiations of the Services Chapter reflect the national interest. Those professional organisations present at the meeting, including the GMOA, were appreciative of the fact that they were being consulted on the negotiations and thanked the Minister for initiating an open process of consultation.
Minister Samarawickrama also reassured the meeting that only two specific sub- sectors, namely IT-enabled services and highly skilled workers for Colombo Dockyard, would be opened up. This was contrary to the misinformation that had been spread to the effect that doctors, engineers, architects and even barbers would flood the country.
The Minister also offered to assist the organisations to address issues related to the certification of their professions in order to maintain the necessary standards.
In such a context, it was extremely irresponsible on the part of two members of the GMOA, Dr. Haritha Aluthge and Dr. Nalinda Herath, to totally misrepresent the proceedings of the meetings by declaring that the ETCA would be finalised and signed in January 2016. This is very much at odds with the process set out by the Minister at the meeting.
The Minister stated that a negotiating team would visit Delhi for preliminary discussions on 21 December. These discussions would focus on the content and scope of the Framework Agreement and an “early harvest” of addressing some non-tariff barriers which have been constraining Sri Lankan exports to India. The intention is to sign only the Framework Agreement in January 2016, not the final Agreement as erroneously claimed by Dr. Aluthge and Dr. Herath. There will be, in fact, five to six months of negotiations before the final Agreement is expected to be signed. In this period, there will be plenty of scope for the proposed Working Group of professionals to work with the Government to get the best possible outcome on the Services Chapter of the ETCA.
The erroneous and misleading statement issued by the two members of the GMOA are unprofessional and undermine Minister Samarawickrama’s efforts to build an open process of negotiations based on mutual trust. It is important that the professional associations, including the GMOA, condemn and censure such irresponsible behaviour which is not in the interest of the medical profession, professional organisations as a whole, or the people of Sri Lanka.

- See more at: http://www.ft.lk/article/506095/Govt--rejects-GMOA-stance-on-agreement-with-India#sthash.PJYsQM9k.dpuf

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