Biz community concerned over losing trade concessions | Sunday Observer

Biz community concerned over losing trade concessions

The government should address the rising crime rate in the country by other means and not at the expense of losing the GSP Plus concession which deprive exporters the opportunity to access a large market, exporters and trade chamber heads cautioned.

The European Union (EU) is Sri Lanka’s second largest trading partner after India, absorbing 31 percent of Sri Lankan exports in 2015. Textiles and clothing accounted for about 61 percent of Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU followed by food products with 12.3 percent in 2016. Sri Lanka Chamber of Small and Medium Industries President Rohan de Silva said the withdrawal of the GSP Plus will be a huge blow to exporters who have been benefiting from duty free export concession for many years. “However, there has to be a firm mechanism that would deter people from committing crimes, which is essential to maintain law and order in the country,” de Silva said, adding that the government should negotiate with the EU to retain the trade concession. CEO of Shippers’ Academy Colombo, Rohan Masakorala said, “Personally I am not in favour of the death penalty which will only complicate the situation and certainly affect the current export growth in the EU region. “We lost over US$ 3 billion, in addition to buyers and market access over period of five years due to the withdrawal of the GSP Plus concession last time. It will be a tragedy if we have to go on a similar path again due to lack of foresight,” Masakorala said.

Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce Chairperson Chathuri Ranasinghe said while Sri Lanka should do its best to keep the GSP Plus facility adhering to international conventions it should find a better way to deal with the rising crime rate which is impeding the growth of the country.

An exporter to the EU said he welcomes the move to re-impose capital punishment which is the need of the hour given the spate of crime in the country even though we may have to lose the trade concession.

Tea Exporters Association past President Rohan Fernando said Sri Lanka is no longer a poor country according to the latest ranking by the World Bank placing us in the upper middle income category. The GSP plus facility is afforded to lower-income countries and for goods which are not in competition with those manufactured in the countries granting the GSP plus facility. Since GSP plus is conditional to meeting 27 international conventions, Sri Lanka will be placed in a difficult position when implementing the death penalty for prisoners on death row with selective implementation for people involved in drug trafficking.

“As a sovereign nation we must take decisions and any international convention we enter into must not undermine our security and independence. Several powerful countries such as the US, India, Russia and China have not done away with the death penalty and they are also the top leaders of the United Nations and some with veto power. It is high time we as a resilient nation come out of begging and handouts for survival,” he said.

The Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in a communiqué released recently noted that the death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and a degrading punishment, and the EU unequivocally opposes its use in all circumstances and all cases.

While the Sri Lankan authorities have cited the need to address drug-related offences, studies show that the death penalty fails to act as a deterrent to crime. Resuming the death penalty would also send a wrong signal to the international community, investors and partners of the country.

The European Union will continue to monitor Sri Lanka’s effective implementation of the 27 international conventions relating to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) commitment, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Since the end of the internal conflict, Sri Lanka has achieved major progress to consolidate the basis for a resilient, democratic and inclusive society. The European Union, as a partner and friend of Sri Lanka, expects the authorities to make every effort to preserve these achievements, and to uphold the country’s international commitments, the communique stated.