Colombo: The European Commission (EC) has
temporarily suspend the GSP plus trade concession to Sri Lanka
because of its poor human rights record prompting Colombo to
consider legal options.
The Sri Lankan threat comes as its garment industry to
a great extent is dependent on the GSP Plus facility for its
survival and it is estimated that the fate of over 100,000
jobs and over USD 2 billion in export earnings hang on country
getting the facility extended for 2009-2011.
"Recommendation by the European Commission temporarily
to withdraw GSP benefits for Sri Lanka is extremely unfair,
unwarranted and unjust," Export Development and International
Trade Minister G L Peiris told reporters yesterday.
Peiris said all dignitaries who came here to
inspect the war affected zone after peace was restored
expressed satisfaction over the manner the displaced persons
were looked after in the welfare camps.
"If that was so with people like(UN Emergency
Relief Coordinator) John Holmes (who visited Sri Lanka) the
delay in giving us that facility gives reason to believe its
a conspiracy", Peiris claimed.
The Commissions structures against Colombo came as its
spokesman Christiane Hohmann said, "The Commission completed a
thorough investigation into the human rights situation in Sri
Lanka and in particular whether Sri Lanka is living up to the
commitments it made to respect international human rights
standards when it became a beneficiary of the European Union’s
GSP+ trade incentive scheme."
However, the Sri Lankans claimed that WTO has
established norms which govern these matter and "we are now
taking legal advice with regard to the remedies that are
available to us", Peiris said.
A trade union activists from the Garment sector,
Anton Marcus said to protect the interest of the workers in
Sri Lanka, it was necessary to look at the demands of the
European nations vis-à-vis GSP Plus trade concession.
These included the issues of International
convention on human rights as well as the workers rights, he
Rohan Masokorala of Sri Lanka`s Joint Apparel
Association Forum told a Private TV channel that the industry
is pretty concerned about what is going on.
This is because buyers are keen on know about
stability because they need to place orders for the future
months, Masokorala pointed out.
So what we are worried is if the GSP Plus concessions
is definitely withdrawn, there will be consequences to the
local industry because we will lose business.
"We could lose buyers," he told Newsfirst channel.
"As a result we could have serious problems to
carry on the industry the way we are doing right now.
The government will have to engage in a dialogue with
the EU as the European Union has raised some questions
relating to their concerns, he said.