Strengthened by previous positive vibes from the European Union, the Government of Sri Lanka has started the process to regain the generalised system of preferences plus (GSP Plus) status, according to an official statement.
An eight-member EU Trade Working Group (TWG), a senior delegation on GSP Plus led by a very senior trade official of EU, held discussions with Sri Lankan officials this week, in Colombo.
The EU-Sri Lanka Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation was held in a “friendly and constructive atmosphere”. It was co-chaired by RDS Kumararatne, director general of commerce, for Sri Lanka and Marc Vanheukelen, director, European Commission directorate general for trade, for the EU.
The joint statement issued at the end of the meeting said: “Sri Lanka and the EU discussed issues related to promoting bilateral trade and investment. In particular they started the process that may lead to the re-admission of Sri Lanka to the status of GSP Plus under the European Union’s new GSP regulation. They also discussed bilateral matters related to investment facilities, import duties and fishery exports from Sri Lanka to the EU.”
“The EU and Sri Lanka also reviewed progress in the WTO Doha Development Agenda negotiations and expressed their hope that the Trade Facilitation Agreement would enter into force at the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2015,” the statement added.
The statement said European Union is favourably considering Sri Lanka’s proposal for possible funding in the areas of trade-related capacity building and development support for SMEs’ trade competitiveness in regional and EU markets under EU’s Regional Programming for Asia Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-2020.
Sri Lanka lost the GSP Plus status in 2010 due to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) alleging violations of Human Rights during the civil war. Subsequently, when the EU evaluated Sri Lanka last year it found that the country was not adhering to 3 of the 27 international covenants that a country must abide to qualify for the consideration of GSP Plus.
However, based on a political commitment by the new Sri Lankan government, the EU will consider Sri Lanka’s case under a special monitoring process. The full application process takes about 10 months. If the status is granted, Sri Lankan exports to the EU will attract lower or no duty.
Last week, Sri Lankan minister of industry and commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said that the country had lost considerable apparel revenue over the past few years as a result of losing GSP Plus. He said the recovery of GSP Plus would be a great step forward for the country’s competitive apparel sector and its global image.
The EU is Sri Lanka’s largest export market, accounting for one-fourth of all exports, of which garments constitute around 60 per cent. In 2014, Sri Lanka’s apparel exports to the EU increased by 10.5 per cent year-on-year to US$ 2.16 billion. (RKS)
Fibre2fashion News Desk - India