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Lanka may become US free trade partner
Sri Lanka has been named as a "potential candidate" for US Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick announced this week.
Speaking at a luncheon meeting of the Institute for International Economics on Free Trade Agreements and US Trade Policy, Mr. Zoellick said that the US would accelerate bilateral trade with small countries and regional approach to liberalising trade especially if the WTO talks stalled.

The UNF government has been pushing for an FTA with the United States in a bid to safeguard nearly 200,000 jobs in the garment industry which will face severe competition once the quota system comes to an end in 2004.

Forty one percent of Sri Lanka's exports are to the US, bringing in some 2 billion dollars, a quarter of which is from apparel exports. To qualify for FTA status, Mr. Zoellick said, the US looks at each country's economic reforms status, how they support US positions on trade negotiations, US foreign policy objectives and the impact of an FTA on further regional integration.

Sri Lanka was named as a "potential candidate" along with some countries in West Asia (the Middle East), the Dominican Republic and Columbia.

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