EU renews support for SL, but urges lifting of import restrictions

Friday, 20 November 2020 04:18 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Stresses trade is not a one-way street and import restrictions having a negative impact on Sri Lankan and EU biz, FDI and impairs Sri Lanka’s efforts to become a regional hub 

The European Union yesterday reiterated support for Sri Lanka, but urged the lifting of restrictions on imports, whilst calling for rule of law and fostering of a vibrant civil society.

The expression of support and recommendation was following Colombo-based Heads of Missions representing the European Union and its Member States holding a series of high-level meetings, including with Foreign Minister Gunawardena.

In a statement, the Delegation of the European Union (EU) and the Embassies of France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Romania said as COVID-19 continued to bring a number of challenges, the EU had underlined its longstanding support for Sri Lanka as a reliable partner, including through over one billion EUR of grants over the last 25 years, notwithstanding the Member States’ bilateral assistance.

In addition to significant development cooperation, the statement recalled that the EU was a crucial economic partner for Sri Lanka. Thanks to the EU’s special Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+), Sri Lanka enjoys competitive, predominantly duty- and quota-free access to the EU market, based on the continued implementation of 27 international conventions on human rights, labour, environment, climate change and good governance. 

Not least due to these unilateral trade preferences, the EU is the second biggest export market for Sri Lanka worldwide, with a positive trade balance of more than one billion EUR (about Rs. 220 billion) in 2018 and 2019, the statement added.

“Trade, however, is not a one-way street. The current import restrictions are having a negative impact on Sri Lankan and European businesses, and on Foreign Direct Investment. Such measures impair Sri Lanka’s efforts to become a regional hub and negatively impact Sri Lankan exports by constraining the import of raw material and machinery,” the EU said. “We recall that a prolonged import ban is not in line with World Trade Organisation regulations,” it added. 

EU also said Sri Lanka’s withdrawal of support for the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 remained a source of concern. 

“The Government has stated its continuing commitment, including to the EU, to fostering reconciliation, justice and peaceful coexistence among Sri Lanka’s diverse communities. The EU stands ready to support the Government’s efforts in this area. The rule of law and a vibrant civil society are essential in this regard,” the EU statement said. 

“We are looking forward to continuing our deep engagement with Sri Lanka, in line with our shared international commitments and obligations,” the EU added.