EU in talks with Sri Lanka on maintaining trade privileges

BRUSSELS, March 16, 2010 (AFP) – The European Union wants to work with Colombo to avoid the withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s trade privileges with the bloc, under threat due to rights concerns, an official said Tuesday. “The Commission remains committed to work with Sri Lanka to see whether the conditions for a reversal” of a decision last month to suspend the trade privileges “are in place”, said EU Commission trade spokesman John Clancy.

For that to happen there must first be “significant improvements on the effective implementation of the human rights conventions,” he added.

European Union nations decided last month to withdraw preferential trade benefits from Sri Lanka due to “significant shortcomings” on human rights issues, the EU Commission announced.

However the suspension of the GSP+ (Generalised System of Preferences plus) benefits will not take effect for six months giving Sri Lanka time to address the problems identified.

The European Union’s GSP+ scheme gives 16 poor nations preferential access to the trading bloc in return for following strict commitments on a wide variety of social and rights issues.

Sri Lanka’s hawkish government has faced almost constant criticism over the past