Following a recent meeting of the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), attended by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary and State Minister Tharaka Balasuriya, the Secretary of the JAAF claimed that progress was being made and expressed optimism over the continuation over the GSP+ trading arrangement.
This statement follows a scathing European Union resolution that highlighted the deterioration of human rights conditions in Sri Lanka and the continued use of Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The resolution passed on 11 June with 628 votes in favour, 15 against and 40 abstentions. The resolution calls on the European Union’s Council to temporarily suspended the favourable trading agreement granted to Sri Lanka.
Commenting on Sri Lanka release of prisoners detained under the PTA, prior to the EU's review of the GSP+ in November, Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director for HRW, maintained that the release was a "blatantly cynical measure to keep trade preferences" and an "empty gesture".
"The release of people imprisoned for years under the [PTA] in no way removes the need to replace the abusive law or the need for pressure from Sri Lanka's partners to do so".
The loss of the GSP+ trading arrangement would have a significant impact on the country's economy as 20% of Sri Lanka's total exports are to EU countries. A further 10% are to the United Kingdom which may follow the EU's lead, warns Sri Lankan economist Sirimal Abeyratne, professor of economics at the University of Colombo.