EU gets tough; GSP Plus ends on Aug. 15

By Leon Berenger

Sri Lanka will not receive any GSP Plus preferential tariffs for exports to the European Union from August 15, its envoy in Colombo said yesterday.

“There will be no further extensions. Sri Lanka must meet its international obligations,” EU delegation chief Bernard Savage told the Sunday Times. He said the EU expected the Government to heed the 15 conditions placed before it.

Last Wednesday, the Cabinet of Ministers at a meeting chaired by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, decided to reject outright the EU’s conditions. The conditions include the full implementation of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, repeal of remaining parts of the Emergency Regulations and extension of invitation to UN special envoys who wished to visit Sri Lanka.

“We will reconsider our position only when we receive a formal response from the Government of Sri Lanka,” Mr. Savage said.

External Affairs Ministry Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe declined to say when such a formal response would be made. “Sri Lanka’s response to the GSP Plus issue has already been shared among the general public. External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris has already announced the Government’s position,” he told the Sunday Times.

On Friday night, apparel exporters met to examine the impact of the EU move. The apparel industry, where over a million workers are employed, is the biggest beneficiary of the GSP Plus concessionary tariffs from the EU. They discussed production and exports after August 15.

Government Spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told the Sunday Times, “even if we were to accept the demands, the time frame of six months is not enough. At least ten constitutional amendments will have to be made.” He said “at the end of the day it will be the poor workers who will be affected by these so-called sanctions, the very sector the EU wants to protect.”

He blamed the Tamil diaspora and the INGOs for the EU’s decision.

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