Sri Lanka regains valuable EU trade concession

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena gestures as he speaks during a meeting with Russian President at the Kremlin. [Kirill Kudrayavtsev/ EPA]

Sri Lanka has regained a lucrative EU trade concession it lost six years ago over concerns about human rights, mainly benefiting its garments export industry, but it will be subject to vigorous monitoring, the European Union said today (16 May).

The trade concession offered by the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus will provide immediate benefits worth in excess of €300 million a year and the value could be worth many times more if Sri Lanka uses the opportunity to diversify its economy, the European Union said in a statement.

It will see the EU remove a significant part of import duties on select products in exchange for a commitment to ratify and effectively implement 27 international conventions on human rights, labour conditions, protection of the environment and good governance, it said.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström admitted in a statement that “no one is pretending that the situation is perfect”. She added that “the EU will work closely with the government and non-government organisations to rigorously monitor progress”.

Commission proposes reinstating Sri Lankan trade concession

The European Union’s executive on Wednesday (11 January) proposed that the bloc reinstates a trade concession to Sri Lanka as an incentive to the government to promote human rights and good governance.

Brussels said the process of replacing a prevention of terrorism act still needs to be completed, incidents of torture still remain and children are still being forced into marriage, while there are still laws that discriminate against sections of society.

“We want to see an end to these practices,” Malmström added.

Sri Lanka lost the EU concession in 2010 after then-president Mahinda Rajapaksa rejected demands from the international community to address human rights abuses allegedly committed during a 2009 offensive to crush a Tamil insurgency.

Since ousting Rajapaksa in January 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena’s administration has agreed to address the rights violations.

With annual exports of around $5 billion, Sri Lanka produces garments for some of the world’s most popular brands.

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