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Sri Lanka to continue benefitting from GSP+ despite human rights concerns

Sri Lanka will continue to benefit from the GSP+ trade preferences from the European Union (EU) despite being in breach of many conventions. 

"The EU GSP+ scheme will be available for a period ahead until there is reclassification," Thorsten Bargfrede, the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, reportedly said at a webinar titled 'GSP+ for Enhanced Market Access'. 

GSP+ is granted if the 27 international conventions related to human and labour rights, environment and good governance are implemented. 

In their 2019 Annual Report on 'Human Rights and Democracy in the World' the EU noted that Sri Lanka failed to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), a key commitment made by Sri Lanka to secure a favourable trading relationship under the GSP+. The PTA enables detention without charge and the Rajapaksa administration have chosen to retain the legislation and withdraw the counter-terror legislation which was proposed to replace it. The EU have previously stated that the continued use of the PTA remains a serious issue of concern. 

Earlier this year, the EU expressed deep concern following the arrest of Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent Muslim lawyer, under the PTA, over the alleged involvement in the Easter Sunday attacks a year ago. At the time, The EU delegation tweeted that it reiterated the "need to review counter-terror legislation to bring it in line with SL's int. human rights obligations."

Sri Lanka lost access to the trade concession due to its abysmal human rights record in 2010. Access was reinstated in 2017 and was met with criticism from human rights organisations and Tamil civil society. 

Last year, exports enjoying EU GSP+ benefits amounted to $2.7 billion, up by 4% compared to the previous year. 


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