By Uditha Jayasinghe
Following successful discussions in Germany and Austria, the Government will make a formal application for the GSP+ facility in the next two weeks, top members of the delegation said yesterday.
Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake addressing media after his return insisted that he has “absolutely no doubt” Sri Lanka would regain the preferential trade facility within this year. Both Austria and Germany had expressed their support for Sri Lankan investment with the latter pledging to engage in support of Sri Lanka with the European Union post-March to promote resumption of GSP+.
“We were received with much cordiality and the representatives of both Austria and Germany were extremely keen to explore investment opportunities in Sri Lanka. This is precisely what we wanted, though loans were offered, we need investment,” stressed an upbeat Karunanayake.
Colombo will set about drafting the formal GSP+ application process within the next few weeks but presenting it to the European Parliament will require “critical timing,” as the European representatives have the right to respond in as little as 100 days, though any member can request additional time.
An evaluation of GSP+ would revolve around Sri Lanka’s adherence to 29 UN Conventions and agreements including pledges made regarding reconciliation.
In addition an Austrian trade delegation will visit Sri Lanka next Friday where a range of investment opportunities will be discussed including renewable energy, waste management and a proposal for Austria’s national carrier Lufthansa to operate ground handling facilities in Mattala and the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) with SriLankan.
The Austrian Government had also offered to increase its loan capacity more than five-fold from just Euro 38 million in 2015 to Euro 250 million. Officials had also encouraged the Sri Lankan Government to implement an open skies policy, which the Finance Minister remarked would be prioritised.
“In just three days we were able to show these two countries the depth of the change that took place in Sri Lanka last year. The President in particular was insistent this change should be felt by the public. This was the entire point of our visit,” he added.
A trade delegation from Germany comprised of 27 companies in the sectors of logistics, renewable energy and agriculture will visit in May. Germany was a key stakeholder in Sri Lanka’s economy before and could become so again, noted the Finance Minister. Discussions also centred on Linde Group, which is the largest gasses and engineering company in the world and the company behind Ceylon Oxygen expanding their business in Sri Lanka.
However, the Volkswagen joint venture to manufacture vehicles for local consumption signed last year will likely get delayed till December, Karunanayake acknowledged, due to the company facing lawsuits over its emissions scandal.
Both Austria and Germany had offered technical expertise to improve technology in the local agriculture sector to encourage exports and competitiveness.