Top Lankan team heading to Brussels next week to secure GSP+

By Shehana Dain

In the backdrop of the Government’s successful attempt to lift the European Union (EU) fisheries ban, a top team of officials from Sri Lanka is now scheduled to depart for Brussels for decisive talks on the matter, a top official said.

The Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and Maldives Political, Trade and Communications Section Deputy Head Roshan Lyman told the Daily FT that the Lankan team leaving next week is set to be headed by the Department of Commerce (DOC) Director General Sonali Wijeratne.

Lyman who made these remarks at the launch of BIZMEET organised by the Junior Chamber International said: “There is an important meeting on 11 May in Brussels between the Sri Lankan Government representatives and the EU. Following that, a decision will be taken when to submit the application. The Sri Lankan delegation will constitute officials who will be joining from other departments in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and also most probably officials from the Ministry of Trade and Development.”

Sri Lanka’s most recent application for GSP+ was in 2008 which subsequently was rejected due to EU concerns over reports of human rights violations in the country and since the unitary Government came into power, officials have been heavily lobbying to regain the arrangement.

Submitting the GSP+ application might take about a month and a half after he said that it would take approximately around nine months to cross check with the EU internal process and to see if the Sri Lankan Government is compliant to EU regulations.

“Sri Lanka has progressed quite a bit when it comes to discussion regarding GSP+, we are reaching that mark that we wanted to touch. It’s a question about weeks and months and no more years in the sense of drafting the application. Once it’s submitted it would approximately take nine months for our internal processes to evaluate the application,” he added.

According to European Parliament member Nirj Deva, one of the stumbling blocks obstructing the application was the fisheries ban which is expected to be lifted in eight weeks time.

“We in the European Parliament will not entertain a GSP+ application if there was a fishing ban on that country. So the application process could not have started if the fishing ban was not lifted. There are 65 different things the Government has to do and I know that they are doing it quite fast,” he asserted.

The EU is Sri Lanka’s largest export destination, absorbing 36% of its exports. Textiles and clothing account for more than half of Sri Lanka’s export value with machinery, rubber-based goods, jewellery and agricultural products making up for the rest. – See more at: http://www.ft.lk/article/540027/Top-Lankan-team-heading-to-Brussels-next-week-to-secure-GSP-#sthash.U0AtETDs.dpuf