Colombo, April 27 (NIA) – Sri Lanka, on Thursday won a crucial vote in the European parliament which would pave way for the island country to gain key EU trade concessions known as the GSP plus.
Sri Lanka’s Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva said that Sri Lanka won the vote in Brussels with 436 members voting against a motion which was taken up to deny the country the GSP plus facility. 119 members voted in favor of the motion while 22 were absent.
Sri Lanka lost the EU concession, known as the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus in 2010 after former President Mahinda Rajapaksa rejected demands from the international community to address human rights abuses allegedly committed during a 2009 offensive to crush a Tamil insurgency.
The country was awarded the trade concession to facilitate its recovery following the deadly 2004 Tsunami.
According to the EU, Sri Lanka was a major beneficiary of the trading opportunities offered by the GSP plus. Sri Lankan exports benefiting from these trade preferences were T-shirts and other clothing items, as well as fisheries products.
Sri Lanka gained about 150 million dollars annually due to preferential tariffs, according to trade estimates. The island’s clothing industry being the main beneficiary, used the tax breaks to sell to high street retailers in Europe.
President Maithripala Sirisena’s government, which was sworn into power in 2015, looked at avenues to re-apply for the trade concessions following staggering losses to the country’s economy.
Sirisena’s government pledged good governance and human rights, which was one of the key elements of regaining back the GSP plus.
On Wednesday, a day before the vote, Deputy Minister De Silva said in a statement from Brussells that that he had met several Members of the European Parliament to discuss issues related to the Sri Lanka GSP+ vote.
He said he was confident the the country would receive back the trade concessions.
The European Union is expected next month to make a final decision if Sri Lanka is duly entitled, or not, to be granted GSP plus.