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Sri Lanka gets EU GSP Plus

Sri Lankan exporters will have their duty free access to the European Union reinstated from Friday, an official said Tuesday, despite Colombo’s failure to fully comply with its human rights obligations. The 28-member EU last week agreed to restore its generalised system of preferences (GSP Plus) — a favourable tariff scheme to encourage developing nations to comply with human rights — to Sri Lanka from Friday after a seven-year hiatus. Sri Lanka was denied GSP Plus status in  2010 after failing to meet its rights obligations. The new administration of Maithripala Sirisena reapplied for the tariff concession after coming to power in 2015. Sirisena has agreed to address concerns identified by the international community but has been slow to deliver accountability for war-time atrocities under his predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse. EU ambassador to Sri Lanka, Tung-Lai Margue, said exporters could enjoy the duty free status from Friday, despite outstanding concerns. ‘There are no serious failures (under the new government),’ he told reporters in Colombo. ‘But that does not mean that everything is perfect. As in the case of all countries benefiting from GSP Plus, the removal of customs duties for Sri Lanka will be accompanied by rigorous (human rights) monitoring.’ There were still ‘serious concerns’ about the use of torture by law enforcement, child marriages and social discrimination, he added. Margue said Sri Lanka would reap a 300 million euro ($331 million) benefit annually from exporting to the EU, a key market for its goods.Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU amounted to roughly 2.6 billion euros last year despite the island nation not enjoying the favourable tariff scheme.

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