Sri Lanka win EU parliamentary vote on GSP+ by 436 votes against the motion to deny GSP+ to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka win EU parliamentary vote on GSP+ by 436 votes against the motion to deny GSP+ to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has been able to defeat a motion presented by a group of members in the European Parliament calling for denial of granting GSP+ to Sri Lanka. The vote was decided with 436 voting against the resolution and 119 in favour with 22 absentees. According to Dr. Harsha De Silva, the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, the resolution was tabled at the eleventh hour and until which the process was ongoing smoothly.
The resolution was put forward by the group, Confederal Group of the European United/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)and cites the report of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka issued on February,2017 and states that the measures adopted by Sri Lanka are “inadequate to ensure real progress” and “worryingly slow.”
Deputy Minister, Dr. Harsha De Silva was in Brussels as a member of the Committee on Public Accounts however, made key personal interference in defeating the play according to the fellow member of Committee on Public Accounts and Member of parliament, Sunil Handunneththi. Dr. De Silva further commented that the next step in gaining the GSP+ is the consent of European council of the ministers which is only a procedural step. He further stated that no objections are expected at the council of ministers and it will swiftly be approved and a gazette to be issued making it the law. He also said the process is likely to conclude around 11th of May.
Sri Lanka had already fulfilled partially fulfilled the two conditions made by the European Council to grant the GSP+ concession earlier. Sri Lankan Cabinet had already amended a version of white paper for the counter terrorism laws and also had sent a copy of the proposed changes to the Code of Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) Act no.02 of 2013 to European Union.
There have been doubts mounting earlier on granting of the GSP+ particularly after a fact-finding mission by the European Union made some concerns known. Anne- Marie Minuer, a member of the European Parliament raised concerns of fundamental rights of workers and trade unions and was quoted “Collective bargaining and the right to strike should be an integral part of this” commenting on the Free Trade Zones and General Services Employees Union. Another Member Lola Sánchez Caldentey, expressed concerns and stated European Union will not grant the special trade status if the money from the advantage remains with only a few businessmen.
The GSP+ concession was previously granted to Sri Lanka until 2010 where alleged Human Rights violations made the European union stop the concession.
In an earlier statement issued by the European Commission it stated “Removal of customs duties would be accompanied by rigorous monitoring and conditional on continued commitment to sustainable development, human rights and good governance,” It also stated that “These one-way trade preferences would consist of the full removal of duties on 66 per cent of tariff lines, covering a wide array of products including textiles and fisheries,” As such the GSP+ concession is likely to impact the apparel and fisheries industry the most.
The apparel industry in particular is expected to have a significant boost from this. The former Secretary General of the Joint Apparel Association Forum, Rohan Masakorala was quoted in media as saying that “The apparel industry will be able to produce quality goods at a cheaper price. This will enable Sri Lanka to sell more and will have a competitive market edge. There will be duty waiver of around 10 percent and this is a considerable amount in international trade,”.
It is expected that a proposal would be made at the European Council Meeting to direct a portion of proceeds towards the workers. This was earlier agreed to by the Labour Minister John Seneviratne and the Chairman of the Board of Investment, Upul Jayasuriya when they met with the members from the fact-finding mission. According to the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association it is expected that securing GSP would bring in an immediate USD 400 million to 500 Million to Sri Lankan economy.
The deputy minister, Dr. Harsha de Silva commenting on the path after winning the GSP+ made remarks as to the need to expand beyond the traditional industries. He encouraged the investors to take advantage of the 6,600 products the GSP+ will be applicable to. He was quoted “now it’s for the private sector to take advantage of the opportunity in a way that will help not only them but certainly the workers, with more jobs and better pay, and the country at large”. He further added “”Let’s get Sri Lanka connected to the global production networks and let’s get the FDIs rolling in,”
This is in line with the governments expectation via the budget to get more investors by offering incentives. The GSP+ concession will now be backed by the earlier proposed tax holidays for investors for large scale investments in the country. Also, the incentives for private sectors to construct mini industrial parks in areas such as Moneragala, Puttalam, Jaffna/Vanni, and Ampara will gain momentum through the value addition the GSP+ will bring to the country and by opening of more product lines.

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Article Code : VBS/AT/17052017/Z_1

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