EU confirms Sri Lanka loses preferential access

EU confirmed Sri Lanka would lose access its preferential trade access next month.

EU confirms Sri Lanka loses preferential access

 

The European Union on Monday confirmed Sri Lanka would lose access its preferential trade access next month after the Indian Ocean island nation refused to make written pledges to improve its human rights record.

From Aug. 15, Sri Lanka will be temporarily suspended from the Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP Plus) trade scheme, which the government estimates is worth about 100 million euro ($125 million) annually to the country's exporters, according to Reuters.

"We very much regret the choice of Sri Lanka not to take up an offer made in good faith," EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

"We will, however, keep the door open for Sri Lanka to return to talks."

The European Union, Sri Lanka's largest trading partner, in February decided to revoke the trade concession but gave Sri Lanka until July 1 to discuss steps it would take. That later became a July 1 deadline to pledge to make changes the EU sought.

Sri Lanka refused to bend to the demands, saying they were a violation of its sovereignty and part of a Western campaign to punish it after it defeated the Tamil Tiger separatists in May 2009, ending a three-decade civil war.

The EU denies political motivations.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government says the Western push for accountability is fuelled by Tamil Tiger supporters in the diaspora and is hypocritical, given Sri Lanka was fighting a group on U.S. and EU terrorism lists.

He has said the West cannot point an accusing finger over civilian deaths or human rights, given the thousands of civilians killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and indefinite detentions of terrorism suspects.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said Colombo had already arranged relief to export businesses that would be affected by Sri Lanka no longer receiving preferential access to European Union markets.

"We are not accepting EU conditions. Our position is very clear," Rambukwella said. "We have already made alternate arrangements to help the exporters who may be affected by this."

The minister previously dismissed the EU conditions as "insulting to every Sri Lankan" and vowed the government would not back down.

During the decades of war, Sri Lanka had a history of rights violations by both the government and the Tamil Tigers, and accusations that thousands of civilians were killed in the final stages of the war increased pressure on the government.

Sri Lanka denies causing mass civilian casualties.
 

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Temmuz 2010, 14:10
YORUM EKLE