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Sunday, 24 October 2010

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During review of petition :

GSP will be in force -- US embassy

The United States will continue its GSP trade benefits to Sri Lanka during the review of the petition, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Colombo said.

He said that in other countries the GSP review process had taken several years and the GSP benefits continued for the entire period.

America’s largest union-the AFL-CIO filed a petition to review the GSP trade concessions for Sri Lanka. The petition states that Sri Lanka was not meeting international standards on labour rights.

Ceramic products - a high export earner

“The United States Government has accepted the petition for review but has not yet determined whether or not these claims are correct”, the spokesman said.

Sri Lanka has been benefitting from the US GSP trade concessions since the system was initiated in 1976. Sri Lanka is the 14th beneficiary on the special trade incentive list.

The USA gathered information on the labour situation in Sri Lanka through a visit to the country in August where the US experts met government officials, union leaders, employers and stakeholders. The USA held a hearing in Washington in September which provided additional information on labour rights in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka was facing a possible risk of loosing the trade concessions due to the petition submitted to the US State Department by American trade unions and the American labour organisation, AFL-CIO.

Several local trade unions supported the petition calling for the removal of the trade concessions to Sri Lanka on grounds of weak labour laws in the country.

General Secretary, Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya, Leslie Devendra said he made several representations to the US State Department that the rights of workers in Sri Lanka are far better than that of many countries in the region. He said the removal of the GSP would result in the loss of around 30,000 jobs in the export sector.

“The Union is in constant dialogue with the Government to rectify the deficiencies in the labour laws in the country”, Devendra said. Sri Lanka exports items to the value of around US$ 150 million annually to the US under the system. Apparel is not included in the US GSP scheme.

The export earnings from the US GSP last year were around US$ 116 million.

The loss from the European Union (EU) GSP Plus this year is estimated to be around US$ 57 billion. Exporters said that the withdrawal of the trade benefits will adversely affect the industry which provides livelihood to a large number of workers. President, American Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka, Vijaya Ratnayake said a decision has not been taken to abrogate the US GSP and added that Sri Lanka will be a beneficiary of the special trade concession.

Apparel and clothing, rubber and articles, precious and semi precious stones, coffee, tea, spices, miscellaneous chemical products, plastics, worn clothing, worn textile, rags, fish and crustaceans, electrical machinery, equipment and parts are some of the items exported by Sri Lanka to USA.

Immediate Past Chairman, Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), Ajith Dias said though apparel exports are not included in the US GSP the Association had made representations to the US officials on the importance of the scheme for Sri Lanka.

The US GSP provides trade concessions to around 130 countries to export around 3,400 goods duty free.

 

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