Sri Lanka to complete reforms, prosecute violent nationalists to retain GSP+
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has assured visiting European Union parliamentarians it would complete reforms to improve human rights and labour standards and prosecute perpetrators of attacks on Moslems to retain duty free access to EU markets under GSP Plus.
“The Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) is of key importance for Sri Lanka’s economy,” the delegation of six Members of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA) said in a statement.
“The INTA delegation was pleased to note that trade between the EU and Sri Lanka is on an upward trajectory following the entry into force of GSP+ last summer, making the EU Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner,” it said.
“The government needs to keep the country on the path to reform,” said the statement, issued during the delegation’s three-day visit to follow up on the country’s commitments made in exchange for access to the EU market.
Members said the opportunity to address the remaining issues should not be missed, and highlighted the need to make further progress in implementing international human rights conventions relevant to GSP+ and further improve labour conditions.
The EU was keen to keep GSP Plus alive and ensure Sri Lanka is a stable country but was concerned about recent violence against the Moslem minority, delegation leader Jan Zahradil told a news conference.
“Sri Lanka has adopted some of the necessary international conventions. The question might be how successfully they are implemented,” he said in response to a question on the progress of Sri Lanka’s compliance with conditions needed to retain duty free access under GSP Plus.
“Progress is measurable. They are not finished yet but are being kept up at the moment in areas like labour standards and human rights. We can see general progress.”
Sri Lankan exports to the EU have risen noticeably since duty free market access under GSP Plus was restored, including garments, its main industrial export.
The EU delegation’s visit included a field visit to the Export Processing Zone in Katunayake.
INTA Standing Rapporteur for South Asia Sajjad Karim said they detected a nervousness among minority communities including Moslems in Sri Lanka after recent attacks on them by mobs in the central hill country town of Kandy and elsewhere.
“I am not satisfied that adequate policing protection was provided to those under attack,” he told the news conference.
“There is a need today for the government to reach out to ensure cohesion and good community relations are reinstated,” Karim said.
“The only real demonstration of that is by ensuring no impunity from prosecution for perpetrators of these acts, whoever they may be.
“We were assured impunity will not play out this time around and we can expect to see proper prosecution of those who carried out these acts,” Karim said after talks with government leaders, opposition members, civil society and trade unionists, and representatives of the United Nations and International Labour Organisation.
“This is a journey we are undertaking as equal partners with Sri Lanka in order ultimately to arrive at a place where we have a strong, open, vibrant, tolerant Sri Lanka, providing opportunities for its citizens and raising their living standards.
“I believe that’s the goal of the vast majority of Sri Lankan citizens. We believe Sri Lankan people genuinely want to raise their own country standards, and their own living standards as well.”
(COLOMBO, April 06, 2018)