Sri Lanka to regain access to GSP plus from Friday

Sri Lanka is expected to regain access to the European Union’s GSP plus trade concession on Friday, the EU office in Colombo announced on Tuesday.

The EU Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Tung-Laï Margue said that no EU country has objected to Sri Lanka being granted GSP plus.

As a result, he says the granting of GSP plus will be printed in the official journal on Thursday and Sri Lanka will have access to the facility from Friday.

Meanwhile Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said granting GSP+ to Sri Lanka aims to provide the opportunity to develop further economically, including creating more and better jobs for all Sri Lankans, 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 European Union 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 still needs to be completed. There are still too many incidents of torture, there are still children being forced into marriage, there are still laws that discriminate against sections of Sri Lankan society. We want to see an end to these practices. The EU will work closely with the Government and Non-Government Organisations to
rigorously monitor progress”.

The EU noted that if Sri Lanka continues to make the necessary progress, then the country has the chance to benefit
from the scheme until it achieves Upper Middle Income country status for three consecutive years. On current trends, that should mean that Sri Lanka will benefit from GSP+ until at least 2021.

The EU is Sri Lanka’s biggest export market accounting for nearly one-third of Sri Lanka’s global exports. In 2016, total bilateral trade amounted to almost €4 billion, and EU imports from Sri Lanka amounted to €2.6 billion. The removal of import duties will provide a total of immediate benefits worth in excess of EUR 300 million a year.

The EU noted that the value of the scheme could be worth many times more, particularly if Sri Lanka uses the opportunity to diversify its economy.

The EU is working with the Government to support the development of SMEs to achieve the standard required to export to the European market, and take full advantage of GSP Plus. The EU will also build on its existing work with the Government and NGO partners to ensure that the benefits of GSP+ accrue to as wide a section of the population as possible, including to areas such as the North and East that were most affected by the war and those areas in the south that have historically been the poorest.

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, and provides a platform for engagement with beneficiaries on all problematic areas. As is the case for all countries benefitting from GSP Plus, the removal of
customs duties for Sri Lanka will be accompanied by rigorous monitoring. (Colombo Gazette)