The Sunday Leader

Human Rights In New GSP + Rules Export Or Perish

By Paneetha Ameresekere

Human Rights (HR) are very much an issue in the EU’s new GSP+ duty free criteria, EDB’s Director General, Sujatha Weerakoon told this newspaper on Wednesday (June 12).

Sri Lanka lost this facility nearly three years ago due to the non investigation of alleged HR abuse in the closing stages of its war against the LTTE.
EU was Sri Lanka’s biggest export market last year.

Sri Lanka’s exports in recent times have been declining, with exports in the first quarter of the year declining by 8%, EDB’s Executive Director,  Dr. Yousuf K. Maraikkar told a meeting on Wednesday.

Weerakoon further said that she believed that applications for the new GSP + duty free facility close in August. “It’s up to the government to decide whether we are going to apply for this facility, I’m unaware of its moves,” she further said.

When this reporter asked EDB’s newly appointed Chairman Bandula Egodage what his strategies were to boost exports, he said that he took office only the previous day (Tuesday) and wanted some time to explain his plans.

The Government targets exports to grow to US$ ($) 20 billion by 2020.

He dodged answering the question, when this reporter asked him whether he believes in the slogan “export or perish?”

“But some wasteful import expenditure, such as the excessive number of mobile phones in use, should be curbed,” he said.

Egodage also admitted that the loss of the GSP+ facility was a loss to the country’s export sector.

The occasion was a function held to fete Sri Lanka’s ornamental fish breeders who had won awards in Singapore recently.

Exports Fall

According to EDB statistics, earnings from ornamental fish exports fell from $ 10 million in 2011 to $ 7.52 million last year.

President, Live Tropical Fish Exporters’ Association, Rohan Fernando said that this decline was due to the decrease in marine ornamental fish exports due to inclement weather. He further said that 60% of the island’s ornamental fish exports comprised fresh water fish.

The ornamental fish export market globally is valued at $ 340 million.“The problem is to cater to the demand for the increased supply of ornamental fish to the global market due to supply side constraints,” he said.

Major markets for Sri Lanka’s ornamental fish exports are Japan, the USA, the UK, Germany and France. There are some 42 ornamental fish exporters in the island, said Fernando. The market wants new species, he said.

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