EU-Sri Lanka launch EUR 8mn project for SME trade competitiveness

Nov 16, 2016 (LBO) – The European Union has launched a 8 million euro project that will help Sri Lanka increase its small and medium enterprise trade competitiveness in regional and European markets.

“This project has been jointly designed with the Government of Sri Lanka, and brings together policymakers, government agencies, business leaders, chambers of commerce and apex organisations with the aim of improving competitiveness gaps and expanding international trade,” Tung-Lai Margue, ambassador of the European Union to Sri Lanka, said.

The project will be implemented over a period of four years by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Department of Commerce.

It will help integrate WTO policies and regulatory reforms to make the most of the potential opportunities from the EU GSP Plus scheme and greater regional integration.

It will also address compliance standards and efficiencies in cross border procedures, which are key constraints to market access, especially for small and medium businesses.

Specific attention will be given to enhancing value chains in the spice, food and IT Business Process Outsourcing sectors.

“More than 80 percent of businesses in Sri Lanka are SMEs, representing 35 percent of total employment. Strengthening the export capacities of SMEs in sectors with high potential for job creation is therefore a critical contribution to ensuring inclusive growth in Sri Lanka,” Ashish Shah, director of Country Programmes at ITC, said.

“Through this we will unlock Sri Lankan SMEs’ trade competitiveness and help them reap the benefits of participation in international trade.”

UNIDO will support Sri Lanka’s efforts to integrate into the regional and multilateral trading system through a quality programme aimed at the food and spices sectors’ productive chains.

This is expected to strengthen the National Quality Infrastructure, enhance the technical capacity and improve compliance with quality and sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.

A steering committee, co-chaired by the Ministry of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs and the Delegation of the European Union, will provide overall direction to the project.

Competent national level agencies and apex business entities will support work-plan development and implementation of activities.