EU Ambassador Tung Lai Margue said today the incentive would boost several categories of exports especially garments, rubber products and machinery to EU-member states. “With the regaining of the GSP+ trade facility, Sri Lanka will be able to increase its export revenue and thus reduce the trade deficit. The removal of import duties will provide a basket of immediate benefits worth a minimum of €300 million a year,” the ambassador told a news conference.
The EU is Sri Lanka's biggest export market accounting for nearly one-third of Sri Lanka's global exports. In 2016, the total bilateral trade amounted to almost €4 billion. Ambassador Margue said Sri Lanka should focus on economic diversification with new products being identified for export to reap the maximum benefits from this facility instead of relying on the export of traditional products. He said while Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) would benefit from the GSP+ facility, the indirect benefits would include the attraction of foreign investments and increased employment opportunities for Sri Lankans. Commenting on the lengthy process of re-granting the trade facility to Sri Lanka, the Ambassador said the EU assessed whether Sri Lanka was complying with the 27 UN conventions and whether it had implemented them effectively. “After careful assessment, it was considered that there were no serious failures in the way that these conventions were being implemented.
This doesn’t mean that everything is perfect in the country and that there is no need for further progress in number of areas. We are going to continue interacting with the government closely to achieve more progress,” he said. Ambassador Margue said this was not the end of the story of GSP+ because there would be a stringent monitoring process in place. “Biennial reports will be made on the progress made by Sri Lanka. The country cannot afford any more incidents which will reverse this progress. The type of pressure from other countries which had also applied for this facility will also apply on Sri Lanka and its government.
We hope in the coming months, Sri Lanka will make more progress. The EU will remain vigilant on human rights, labour rights and other matters in this process,” he said adding that the facility was granted after thorough examination of Sri Lanka’s application and not in a secretive manner. “There was a democratic debate in the European Parliament on re-granting GSP+ to Sri Lanka.
This is a good example to show that things had not been done secretly. The EU thoroughly examined the application and the decision has been taken at various levels,” the ambassador said. The EU said, Sri Lanka is the first ever country to lose the GSP+ facility on basis of human rights shortcomings. It said GSP+ will consist of the complete removal of duty on 66% of tariff lines, covering a wide array of products including textiles and fisheries.
Issuing a statement on Sri Lanka regaining the GSP+ trade facility, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said this facility to Sri Lanka aims at providing the opportunity to the country to further develop economically on a sound foundation that advances human and labour rights, and in a manner that is environmentally sustainable. “It is also a vote of confidence from the EU that the Sri Lankan Government will maintain the progress it has made in implementing the international conventions.
At the same time, no one is pretending that the situation is perfect. The process of replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) still needs to be completed. There are still many incidents of torture, children being forced into marriage and laws that discriminate against sections of Sri Lankan society. We want to see an end to these practices,” she said. Ms. Malmstrom said the EU would work closely with Government and Non-Governmental Organisations to rigorously monitor progress.
The EU said if Sri Lanka continues to make necessary progress it has the chance of benefiting from this scheme for three consecutive years until it achieves the status of a Upper Middle Income country and based on current trends, it means that Sri Lanka would benefit from GSP+ until at least 2021. “Granting access to the GSP+ scheme does not mean that the situation of the beneficiary country with respect to the 27 international conventions is fully satisfactory. Instead, it offers the incentive of increased trade access in return for further progress towards the full implementation of those conventions,” the EU said. (Lahiru Pothmulla)