Rishad says Govt. sending monthly progress reports to EU in bid to solve fishery and GSP+
2014’s three biggest exports: Apparels, tyres, frozen fish; 69% of EU trade are exports from SL at $3.5 b
Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen (left) greets Jan Zahradil, a Vice-Chair of EU Committee on International Trade, Member of EU Parliament and also a member of the EU Parliamentary Group ‘Friends of Sri Lanka’on 6 March in Colombo
Sri Lanka’s bilateral trade with European Union smashed the crucial $5 b barrier for the first time in trade history last year and a visiting top EU Trade personality vowed no less than his personal engagement to solve teething issues in bilateral trade.
To reclaim its EU fishery exports, Sri Lanka has also commenced dispatching monthly progress reports to EU in earnest.
“With the new Government of President Maithripala Sirisena, Sri Lanka is a perfect example of a real functioning democracy in the world. I congratulate Lanka for crossing $5 billion trade with the EU. As for fishery and GSP plus, you can rely that not only me but even my other colleagues in other EU Committees would also take care of that!” vowed Jan Zahradil, a Vice-Chair of the EU Committee on International Trade, Member of EU Parliament and also a member of the EU Parliamentary Group ‘Friends of Sri Lanka’.
Zahradil was addressing Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 6 March during his courtesy call on Bathiudeen at the Ministry. Department of Commerce Director General R.D.S.Kumararatne was also present at the meeting.
“As a Vice Chair of the EU Committee on International Trade (INTA), I am here to remove major unpleasant aspects of trade such as fishery ban and GSP+ and to here to find your inputs as to how to muddle through these in the easiest and fastest possible way,” said Zahradil. “The EU Parliamentary Group ‘Friends of Sri Lanka’ of which I am a member, too wants to assess as to how to help Sri Lanka on fishery and GSP+ issues.”
The EU’s INTA is the powerful implementer of EU’s common commercial policy and external economic relations, including trade and investment legislation such as trade agreements and relations with WTO. One of INTA’s achievement was review of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). According to the European Commission, in 2013, Sri Lanka was the second biggest exporter of swordfish and tuna to the EU.
Bathiudeensaid: “I am pleased to inform you that for the first time, bilateral trade between the EU and Sri Lanka exceeded the $5 b mark in 2014. Our total trade with EU in 2014 stood at $5.07 b, increasing by 3.6% from 2013’s $4.9 b; 69% of 2014 trade were Lankan exports to EU. We need your full cooperation to solve some of our pending trade issues. The EU fish ban is affecting our 500,000 strong fishery sector livelihoods,ours being an island nation. Fisheries are an important product line of our annual total bilateral trade with EU.”
Bathiudeennoted that under the supervision of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, a Committee has been appointed on the fishery ban that now meets on a weekly basis and that all these issues were being progressively addressed.
“For example, a European firm has taken the responsibility to supply transponders to Lankan fishing vessels. We have also decided to send progress reports on a monthly basis to the EU’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries in Brussels. We have submitted our first monthly report to Brussels. Therefore we are moving fast. We hope that EU can make a quick decision, send their audit team, assess the progress that we made, and quickly reverse the ban.”
Commenting on the GSP+ issue, Bathiudeen said: “It was unfortunately imposed on Sri Lanka during the peak of the war. Now new measures to address all the issues of concern have been taken by the new Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena, including the activation of various independent commissions, constitutional amendments, transparency, etc. One election pledge in our 100-day program is to recover GSP+. Therefore we are very positive that we can regain GSP+ benefits. We need your support in this regard.”
Sri Lanka’s bilateral trade with the EU topped $5.077 b for the first time in 2014. Apparel was the biggest export item in 2014 at $2.16 b, growing by 10.5% (YoY); the second biggest was rubber tyres and tubes at $208 m, and the third biggest was frozen fishat $90 m.
Zahradil noted: “I shall definitely take this fishery matter to my Committee and extend my support to regain these benefits from the EU. You can take my visit as a pre-visit of EU fishery expert delegation. Anyway once the monthly progress reports are sent to the Commission then we could try to put this on the agenda as a special point and can help solve this issue as soon as possible perhaps in a horizon of months and not let it last for too long.
“As for GSP+, it is something which we again need to address in the Trade Committee since this new Government will try best to settle the situation completely and it cannot be accused of any wrongdoing in this particular field. You can rely that not only me but even my other colleagues in other EU Committees would also take care of that, and within our limited powers as Parliamentarians towards the EC, we shall promote for better resolution as quickly as possible. As for investments, the power and energy sector of Sri Lanka is very promising.”
Following early February talks by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera with European Commission in Brussels and Samaraweera’s assurance of speedy implementation of EU recommendations, it was announced that an EU fishery expert delegations would be arriving in Sri Lanka.
Fresh and frozen fish exports to the EU in 2014 reached $101.25 m, a 3.4% increase from 2013.