Sri Lanka presses claim for more GSP plus concessions

By Neville de Silva

Sri Lanka is to press its claim for renewed GSP Plus trade concessions when discussions are held with high ranking European Commission and Union officials in Brussels next week.

A strong Sri Lankan delegation led by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and including senior diplomats, officials of the Attorney General’s Department and private entrepreneurs are due to hold three days of talks starting January 26 to convince the European organisations that there is a case to be made for the continuation of the trade concession for another three years.

Foreign Minister Bogollagama will have talks with Catherine Ashton, the new Trade Commissioner of the European Commission who succeeded Peter Mandelson; Javier Solana, the High Representative of the Commission’s Foreign and Security Policy; Benita Ferraro-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and Hans-Gert Pottering President of the European Parliament among others.

The Sunday Times exclusively reported from London on December 21 that Sri Lanka which had eagerly sought a meeting with the new Trade Commissioner had been granted an appointment for late January.
Sri Lanka is one of several countries granted GSP Plus trade concessions that allows duty free access to the European Union markets to a large number of goods.

However the European Commission began an investigation to determine Sri Lanka’s compliance with 27 core UN and ILO conventions on human and labour rights and other international conventions relating to the environment and governance principles.Following Sri Lanka’s application last October for the renewal of these trade concessions that benefit several thousand export items but mainly the garment industry, the EC wanted to send investigators to Sri Lanka to examine Colombo’s implementation of the core conventions.

Sri Lanka’s national position was that investigators would not be entertained in Colombo but that the government would provide whatever evidence and information are necessary for the European Commission to reach a balanced conclusion.

While the emphasis during the discussions would be mainly to present Sri Lanka’s case for a continuation of the trade concession which benefits some 300,000 workers in the garment and ancillary industries, Mr. Bogollagama will also take the opportunity to discuss security issues, particular the impact of transnational terrorism and the support for it such as fund raising, during talks with the Jacques Barrot, Vice –President responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security of the European Commission.

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