Brussels taskforce in Colombo next week for GSP+ redux

Saturday, 21 March 2015 00:51 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • GSP+ recovery process starts in Colombo next Monday
  • Let’s celebrate the process with Brussels!: Daly
  • Pushes SL apparel revenues to next level: Rishad
  • Daly sets record straight on GSP+ recovery
  • EU-SL bilateral trade crosses $ 5 b in 2014
    Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen with EU Ambassador to Sri Lanka David Daly in Colombo early this week       As bilateral trade with the EU crossed the $ 5 b mark for the first time and after months of speculation on the coveted GSP Plus, the EU on 18 March announced the actual start of the recovery process would commence right here in Colombo as early as next week. Setting the record straight on GSP+, the EU also revealed that the process was not simple but much more complicated than it appeared. “GSP Plus is not something that we can tick-off as an achievement under the 100-day program and is not a simple exercise. GSP Plus is about Sri Lanka’s compliance with 27 international conventions. I am pleased to inform you that the EU Trade Working Group (TWG), a senior delegation on GSP Plus led by a very senior trade official of EU, will be here from 23 March onwards and the GSP Plus discussions will start on 24 March. We should celebrate that through next week’s TWG, we have started the discussion process which will continue at the Joint Commission (JC) in early April in Colombo,” announced EU Ambassador to Sri Lanka David Daly on Wednesday. Daly was addressing Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen during his lengthy discussions with Bathiudeen at the EDB in Colombo. EDB Chairman and CEO Bandula Egodage and officials of Department of Commerce were also present at the meeting. “The EU-Lanka trade relationship is a very healthy one and we want to make this even better. At this moment, the EU is in discussion on Sri Lanka GSP Plus issue. EU GSP+ demands a lot of close cooperation over many months to come. GSP Plus is about Sri Lanka’s compliance with 27 international conventions on Human Rights, including torture, harassment, media freedom and civil and political rights guaranteed by these conventions. It’s a very wide agenda,” he said. Daly noted that when at the final stage, when the EU is asked to make up its mind about Lanka GSP Plus and decide, it will again consider the developed ground situation here up to that moment and the day-to-day realities across all these 27 aspects in the country, similar to taking snapshots for constructing and reviewing. “If all ‘snapshots’ are positive, then there will be no problems in GSP+ recovery. If any of these aspects seem to be negative, then it will affect the process. It’s therefore very, very important to work with EU over a long period to monitor how positive or negative these ‘snapshots’ would be. For example, the most recent report from UN issued during the autumn is very negative and such reports will affect recovery.” The JC that follows will cover the entire spectrum of Lanka-EU affairs including political matters and trade development and will be held on 2 April in Colombo with the participation of other Government Ministries. The conclusions of the 24 March TWG rounds will be fed into the 2 April Colombo JC sessions and the EU JC delegation will suggest ways of future cooperation with Sri Lanka at its conclusion. The TWG is led by Van Heukelen, former Head of Office of Trade Commissioner and currently Director GSP Plus Affairs, Brussels, while the JC will be led by Ugo Astuto, Director General of European Union External Action Service in Brussels. “It’s very good that we are able to get them to come to Colombo so quickly. The TWG will be an important point of regular contact between the EU and Sri Lanka on all trade matters,” Daly added. Bilateral trade between EU and Sri Lanka exceeded the $ 5 b mark in 2014 for the first time at $ 5.07 b, increasing by 3.6% from 2013’s $ 4.9 b; 69% of 2014 EU-Lanka trade were Lankan exports to EU. Apparel was the biggest export item in 2014 at $ 2.16 b, growing by 10.5% (YoY); second biggest was rubber tyres and tubes at $ 208 m; and third biggest was frozen fish at $ 90 m. Bathiudeen said: “As a result of losing GSP Plus, we have lost considerable apparel revenues in the last few years. A key element in the Government’s 100-day program is exports promotion and recovery of the GSP Plus facility from the European Union. So far we have been receiving positive signs in this regard from the EU and we are encouraged. Recovery of GSP Plus would be a great step forward for our competitive apparel sector and its global image. We warmly welcome the EU TWG team to Colombo and look forward to a very constructive level of engagement. We are very keen to recover this and shall direct my officials to extend any assistance that you may require in this regard.” The EU TWG delegation about GSP Plus meeting Lankan officials in Colombo on 24 March is expected to be a six-member strong team.