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DateLine Sunday, 30 March 2008

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Extension of GSP Plus scheme an uphill task - Prof. Lakdas Fernando



Prof. Lakdas Fernando

The extension of the GSP Plus scheme appears to be an uphill task since Sri Lanka did not fully satisfy the conditions set out by the European Union (EU) such as Human Rights, good governance and environment, said Chairman, Sri Lanka Apparel Institute, Prof. Lakdas Fernando.

He said the government will have to comply with the 27 ILO international Conventions on labour, good governance, human rights and safety standards for environment.

Sri Lanka had to comply with 23 international conventions before the country received the benefits.

"We hope that the EU will consider the vulnerability of the country's economy and the apparel industry which has employed over 300,000 people and empowered women.The apparel industry is the highest foreign exchange earner in the country with net earnings of US$ 3 billion last year", he said.

The stakeholders are making a concerted effort to get the scheme passed. Minister of International Trade and Export Development Prof. G.L. Peiris held discussions with the EU heads on the renewal of the scheme.

The apparel industry has the best compliance standards and a good reputation in international markets.

The industry hopes that the EU will not be vindictive in its approach to a sector which has empowered women and helped reduce poverty in the country.

The killing of aid workers, eminent persons being asked to leave the country and the recent spate of human rights violations has created a negative image of the country. The EU granted the GSP Plus benefits to Sri Lanka enabling the country to export 7,000 items to the region.

The three schemes granted in 2005 will be taken up for renewal at the end of the year. The stakeholder should take into account the low utilisation of the GSP Plus scheme. The weak backward integration and high capital intensive investments were the primary reasons for low utilisation.

Prof. Fernando said the country's apparel sector is gradually moving towards better investments with the setting up of the Thulhiriya and Sithawaka knitting plants.

There has not been sufficient investments on woven fabrics. The Horana BOI zone has been developed to support backward integration and the weaving sector.

Clean water which is an essential requirement for woven fabric plants is available at the Horana zone.

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