Speaking at the Sri Lanka Apparrel Exporters Association AGM, The European Union Ambassador to Sri Lanka David Daly reiterated that GSP Plus is a unilateral decision taken by the EU Parliament to provide duty-free access to developing countries, which follow all 27 international conventions.
The European Union Ambassador said that the reinstatement of the GSP+ benefits were further away than the government claims. Commenting on a disparity discussions issues tabled by Sri Lanka and EU on reinstatement of the GSP+, Mr Davy said,
“What they have in mind are discussions on T-shirts and other export products. However, my idea of discussions on GDP+ is about torture, freedom of media, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the environment and other issues that flow from the 27 conventions.”
“The recent violence against students raises some questions. What does the government do about it? What sort of follow up is there?” he asked. He also questioned whether the government has a realistic grip of what goes on in the country, referring to the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances revealing the torture chamber in the Trincomalee Naval Base, which was utilized as recently as last year.
Stressing that the GSP+ wouldn’t be reinstated purely becomes of the election of a new government in Sri Lanka, Mr Daly added, ““Measures taken under the GSP Plus must be taken for objective reasons, and not just because we want to help the country because of this government over that. That is not a justification of GSP+.”
Drawing on recent findings of the UN Working Group, Mr Daly said issues of Sri Lanka’s human rights record continued to be discussed in Brussels. Highlighting Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s initial denial of secret torture camps, Mr Daly said, “Is this true? Is this the sort of thing still happening? Did the government sanction this? Was the government aware of this? These are examples of issues which the EU government is now discussing.”
Mr Davy called on businesses to lobby the Sri Lankan government to tighten up its regulations on human rights to help speed up the process of reinstating the GSP, stating,
“I want you to lobby for GSP+, not just due to your company’s interests. Lobby the government by asking ‘What is the state of human rights in the country.”