11th November 2020
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As well as expressing delight at growing exports, throughout autumn 2013 spokespeople for Sri Lanka’s garment trade showed surprising enthusiasm for a potential free trade deal with China, expecting its imminent signing
The enthusiasm contrasts with frequent complaints from trade associations in Indonesia and Vietnam about the one-sided benefits to Chinese manufacturers of their free trade deals with China, and the almost complete lack of apparel exports to China from the deals Bangladesh and Pakistan have. Propaganda for the deal seems unaware it is almost identical with those China has with all of Southeast Asia, and that China thinks it will agree with India by the end of 2015. The enthusiasm seems motivated more by resentment at realising that Sri Lanka’s duty-free access to the EU required adhering to human rights conventions many Sri Lankans believed were incompatible with controlling its civil war.
By early 2014, enthusiasm had cooled, as negotiations appeared to be taking as long as all the world’s other free trade deals. Through late 2013, as the country saw a number of announced sophisticated joint venture projects, such as with Tefron and with Pacific Textiles, growing fears were being expressed about an imminent shortage of workers.
But in a long-running dispute, rubberwear makers The Ansell Lanka Company fired nearly 300 striking workers in late November after the IndustriALL grouping of unions referred disputes in its Sri Lanka and Malaysia plants
Opinion: Sri Lanka’s trade deal with China