Developments encouraging for US GSP review
Sri Lanka looks set to emerge on a winning note in the crucial US GSP hearings that will conclude this month, the Industry and Commerce Ministry said in a statement yesterday.
“I am pleased to announce that Sri Lanka’s case appears to be progressing well at the crucial US GSP review hearings. I am encouraged by the outcome of today’s meeting with the top US Trade official Michael J. Delaney whose concern for Sri Lanka’s well-being is warmly acknowledged by us” announced Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry of Commerce.
Minister Bathiudeen announced this in the aftermath of his successful meeting with Michael Delaney, Assistant United States Trade Representative for South and Central Areas Affairs who, during his brief visit to Colombo, made a courtesy call on Minister Bathiudeen on the eve of 13 June at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
“I am thankful for your depth of understanding and timeliness of Sri Lanka GSP review. I am encouraged by your focus on this issue. We look forward to a positive outcome,” Minister Bathiudeen said. Apprising of his visit, Delaney said: “I am here just to learn more about recent events in Sri Lanka’s labour laws and policies. I know there has been some recent development here and this is something we are interested in. As you know we have an outstanding petition filed by an American trade union concerning Sri Lanka workers’ rights which we have been discussing with the government of Sri Lanka and stakeholders for a long time. We are now aware that there has been considerable progress with regard to workers’ rights of Sri Lanka in recent years. I wanted to become more familiar with recent developments in Sri Lanka so now I can go back to Washington with this information that the US government can take into consideration in dealing with the GSP petition against Sri Lanka.”
Delaney added: “GSP review is an ongoing process and the information I gathered during this visit will be quite useful in our on-going review of the petition against Sri Lanka.”
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in December 2011 announced: “As part of past GSP annual reviews, the Office of the USTR accepted for review petitions to modify the GSP status of certain GSP beneficiary developing countries because of country practices. This notice announces the schedule for submissions and a public hearing on the ongoing reviews of outstanding country practice petitions.”
According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, apparel products remain the largest single Sri Lankan export item to the US. Of Sri Lanka’s $ 4,039 m apparel exports to the world in 2011, 39.36% ($ 1,590 m) was directly absorbed by the US market, rising from $ 1,297.5 m in 2009. Another Sri Lankan product-line in demand in the US market is the ‘rubber based product’ category. When it comes to SL-US trade, the balance of trade has always been in favour of Sri Lanka during the past several years while total trade levels from 2003-2010 remained somewhat unchanged. In 2003, the total trade was $ 1,962.20 m and in 2010 climbed to $ 1,933.08 m. During the past 50 years, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided assistance (not loans) to Sri Lanka to the value of $ 2Bn in areas, among others, education, tsunami reconstruction, demining and public private partnership ventures. Around 4000 Sri Lankan students are currently pursuing their studies in the US.