The Ceylon National Chamber of Industries, the pioneering industry chamber in the country, expressedits great appreciation to the Government for its hard work throughout the past two-year period in regaining the GSP Plus facility.
It said it was unfortunate that Sri Lanka had been deprived of this facility for years, due to which the country lost billions of rupees per annum from exports, especially to the EU countries.
Ceylon National Chamber of Industries Chairman Tissa Seneviratne said in a news release that in late 2009, the EU had decided to suspend the GSP Plus benefits to Sri Lanka. This decision was subsequent to the findings of a detailed report of a Commission of Investigations carried out in October 2008.
“The report concluded that there was no satisfactory progress shown by Sri Lanka in the implementation of the three UN human rights conventions such as Civil and Political Rights, Convention against Torture and Rights of the Children which were related to the approval of benefits.
“There were allegations against the then Government in 2009 about human rights violations, based on which the GSP facility was initially withdrawn for a period of six month, which had later been dragged on extending by giving time to identify and take measures to address them.
“However, the then Sri Lankan Government did not take adequate measures, as desired by the EU, for regaining the GSP Plus facility.The ultimate result was that the country had to lose billions of rupees which we could have saved under the GSP Plus facility at this crucial hour of need.
“The authorities of the Sri Lankan Government have, however, correctly realised that this decision has created a huge blow to the export sector in the country with the closure of several factories including those in the garment industry amounting to a loss of millions of rupees.This is certainly a challenge for the growth of Sri Lankan economy.Under the circumstances, it became highly important to consider as to why the GSP Plus should be regained.
“Fortunately, it is at a time like this, the proposal to deny Sri Lanka of the GSP Plus status was tabled by 52 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and their main argument was that the country’s labour laws are insufficient to protect workers, while there had not been enough progress in the field of human rights. “Significantly, the majority of MEPs clearly had not agreed with this view, but, recognized the visible improvement made in the fields of labour rights and human rights since January 2015. There has been a general understanding in the European Union (EU) that even though improvements could be made in the above sectors, the present achievements can justify Sri Lanka’s efforts to regain GSP Plus.As Dr. Harsha De Silva, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs rightly indicated recently, we have won more than 90% of the issue now and are hopeful that the GSP Plus facility will be received by the country very soon to regain our strengths.”