Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Sri Lanka and EU identify areas for close collaboration

The European Union and Sri Lanka have identified areas for the strengthening of partnerships between the EU and the island nation, Diplomatic sources said.  

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris met with the Commissioner of the European Union for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, on the sidelines of the Ministerial Forum for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, held at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris.

Minister Prof. Peiris discussed with EU Commissioner Urpilainen the strengthening of partnerships between Sri Lanka and the European Union with regard to value-added exports.

These sectors are  garments, flavoured teas, spices including cinnamon and pepper, fisheries products, gems and jewellery and  partnerships in respect of investments in priority sectors like the hospitality sector, Information Technology, food processing, power and energy, and the production of pharmaceuticals.

The discussion also touched on health policy cooperation, connectivity among ports and harbours in the region, vocational training, digitalization and other aspects of people to people contact.

European Commissioner Urpilainen told Minister Prof. Peiris that the EU is increasingly outward-looking in reaching out to countries around the Indian Ocean and the Pacific and that there are clear synergies in the areas of activity identified by the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile the European Union’s (EU) GSP + facility regained by Sri Lanka in 2017 providing market free access for local exporters to European countries will remain till 2023 but this continuation process will not be automatic. 

This was reiterated by Ambassador Denis Chaibi, Head of the EU Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

However he added that the government’s obligations to implement the commitments under 27 UN conventions towards regaining the GSP + will remain as well and will continue to be monitored by the EU. 

Sri Lanka has now become an upper-middle income country in 2019, and thus reached a level of development that would mean it has to graduate out of the GSP+ scheme over time. 

There is a 3-year transition period foreseen for the continuation of the EU facility, ending in 2023 and the strict monitoring process is being continued, he revealed. 

The new status of Sri Lanka becoming this year an upper middle income country will mean that the country will lose the benefits of GSP+ sooner or later, possibly in three years’ time, he pointed out. 

Essentially, EU uses trade as an incentive and its GSP and GSP+ regime does this. 

The beneficiary Third World countries can develop, grow and take advantage of these schemes, while not putting their sensitive sectors and industries at risk. 

“But there is no free lunch; benefits do not come without responsibilities. In exchange for this tariff-free access to the European market, countries must meet international standards in labour rights, environment and human rights,” he emphasised. 

EU GSP+ is automatically lost if a country achieves ‘upper middle income’ status consecutively for three years. In July 2019 the country graduated to upper middle income status. 

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