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Sri Lanka needs to retain GSP+ concession

Full text of media release by National Peace Council

The final report of the EU investigation team into Sri Lanka’s conformity with the standards expected to retain the GSP Plus tariff concession was handed over to the Government of Sri Lanka on Monday. There is concern that Sri Lanka could lose the concession that has helped it to boost its exports to the EU market and made the EU the country’s leading export market with a 36 percent share of total exports. The GSP+ concession is given to those countries that are found to be progressing positively in the areas of good governance, sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Sri Lanka first became a beneficiary of the GSP+ concession in April 2005 in the aftermath of the devastating Asian tsunami of December 2004. The loss of the GSP+ concession could deal a severe blow to a large segment of the economy and cause a great deal of hardship to the country’s working population. The government is currently enjoying a large measure of public support but the loss of GSP+ and the resulting economic hardship can make the task of peace co-existence and reconciliation more difficult to achieve.

The EU has stated that if the Government of Sri Lanka wishes to make any representations in relation to the Commission report, it is kindly requested to bring these to the Commission's attention no later than November 6, 2009. This could include the measures taken, and proposed to be taken, by the government to speed up the release of internally displaced persons from the welfare centres to which they have been confined in an expeditious, humane and just fashion, reversing the practices of impunity with regard to violations of human rights and reviewing emergency regulations and security measures. These issues are accumulating adverse international criticism unhelpful to Sri Lanka and cannot be reversed without evidence of visible results.

The possibility of Sri Lanka losing the GSP+ concession got exacerbated by the country’s human rights record during the time of war and the government’s refusal to permit any direct EU investigation into its adherence to international instruments deemed to be critical to good governance. However, today’s context is very different from that in which the government first refused to cooperate with the EU investigation with the war having ended. The EU’s own review process, and the statements of its Ambassador in Sri Lanka, suggests that there is scope for sympathetic understanding of the country situation. The National Peace Council urges the government to continue efforts to reach an accommodation with the EU that is mutually acceptable and which will retain the GSP+ concession for Sri Lanka.

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