Government seeks to obtain trade concession from EU

EUThe Sri Lankan government said it will seek to obtain trade concession from the European Union which was withdrawn under the previous government.

The EU Trade concession known as GSP plus was withdrawn as the previous government headed by Mahinda Rajapakse failed to comply with certain human rights related regulations.

“We will send a high level delegation for discussions with the EU members but right now we are looking at the various alternatives,” Deputy Economic Development Minister Dr. Harsha De Silva told Xinhua.

The EU withdrew the trade concession for Sri Lanka in 2010 and the move caused widespread panic in the economic and garment sectors with many garment factories being forced to shut down, raising the island’s unemployment levels.

The country was awarded the GSP plus trade concession to facilitate its recovery following the Tsunami in 2004.

According to the EU, Sri Lanka was a major beneficiary of the trading opportunities offered by the GSP plus. Sri Lankan exports benefiting from these trade preferences were T-shirts and other clothing items, as well as fisheries products.

Sri Lanka gained about 150 million dollars annually due to preferential tariffs, according to trade estimates. The island’s clothing industry being the main beneficiary, used the tax breaks to sell to high street retailers in Europe.

The new Sri Lankan government, under the leadership of Maithripala Sirisena has said the government will look at the avenues to re-apply for the trade concession following staggering losses to the country’s economy.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, who concluded his two day trip to Brussels on Thursday, had held discussions with the European Commission to lift a ban on fishing exports to the EU, and he had also held discussions with the officials about the process of requalifying for the GSP plus tariff concession.

The European Commission has offered Sri Lanka assistance to meet regulatory requirements for an early lifting of the ban on fish exports to the EU, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said Thursday.

“During the fruitful meetings, the European Commission offered Sri Lanka assistance in meeting the regulatory requirements that would enable an early lifting of the ban on fish exports to the EU and displayed strong interest in expanding socio-economic ties and development programmes,” the foreign ministry said.

The discussions focused on strengthening Sri Lanka’s relations with the EU and Belgium, the steps Sri Lanka has taken and would take to comply with international fishing regulations and the process of re-qualifying for tariff concessions, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said.

The EU had imposed the ban after Sri Lanka continued to violate international regulations on deep-sea fishing.

Sri Lanka, under the previous government, was given time to remedy the situation before the ban took effect this month, but the government had failed to meet the requirements.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan rupee forwards closed a tad firmer on Friday due to late exporter dollar sales after moral suasion by the central bank capped a fall in the local currency in early trade, dealers said.

Currency dealers said the rupee may depreciate because of an expected increase in consumption after a raft of tax reductions on key commodities in the budget. (Gulf  Today)

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