Sri Lanka threatened with loss of EU trade perks

BRUSSELS, October 19, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka was threatened on Monday with losing preferential trading status with the European Union over human rights violations, the EU commission said Monday.

A Sri Lankan foreign ministry statement said Colombo had blocked a team of experts from visiting “as a matter of principle”.

The country’s textile industry is the main beneficiary of the reduced tariffs regime.

Sri Lanka’s government has secured a 2.6-billion-dollar (1.74 billion euros) bail out from the International Monetary Fund in a bid to revive its war-battered economy. “Serious problems” were identified by a Brussels probe which accuses Sri Lanka of “breaching commitments” made under a deal giving its exporters easier access to the EU market, trade spokesman Lutz Gullner said.

Sri Lanka, which ended a 25-year internal conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels in May, is one of 16 countries benefiting from an EU deal to enhance so-called generalised system of preferences terms offered to developing countries — provided sustainable development and good governance conditions are met.

These include human rights obligations and working practices, and Brussels says Colombo has stil