New Delhi: India and Sri Lanka will sign the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) by the end of this year, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lankan prime minister said on Thursday as both countries look to cement ties further.

Addressing the India Economic Summit organized by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Wikremesinghe said, “We are cognizant that the economic asymmetry between Sri Lanka and India will increase in the future when the latter emerges as a major global player in an increasingly multipolar world. The India-Sri Lanka FTA (Free Trade Agreement) will be further expanded and deepened to go beyond trading goods to cover trade in services, investments and technology cooperation."

“The proposed economic and technology cooperation agreement will be signed by end of this year…Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and I decided that we should conclude it by this year," he added.

He pointed out that the economic and technology cooperation agreement offers a strategic economic advantage to Sri Lanka and the fast-growing southern Indian states. “These five southern states have a population of 250 million and a combined GDP of $450 billion. With an addition of Sri Lanka $80 billion, the GDP in this sub regional economy will cross $500 billion," he said.

He added that along with the free trade agreement between Sri Lanka and Singapore, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and Singapore and the ETCA between India and Sri Lanka will establish a tripartite agreement for trade and investments.

Wickremesinghe, who is on a three-day visit to India, said he also floated the idea in a meeting with Modi of getting countries like Indonesia and Malaysia and BIMSTEC (The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries to be a part of the larger economic partnership.

He also downplayed fears of Sri Lanka’s military ties with China around investments in the one belt one road programme that envisages massive Chinese investments in infrastructure building in the island nation. “There has been a lot of suspicion that there is a military element to it. But that is not there. We have told this very clearly to the Chinese and they have agreed," he said.