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EU to suspend trade concessions to Sri Lanka

[AFP, Thursday, 17 December 2009 10:49 No Comment]

Ethnic minority Sri Lankan Tamil civilians peer from behind a barbedwire fence around a camp for displaced people The European Commission has decided to suspend Sri Lanka’s preferential trade status following a probe criticising the island’s human rights record, an official said Thursday.

Bernard Savage, the head of the European Union delegation to Colombo said the decision would be formally ratified within the next two months, with the suspension coming into effect six months later.

"The European Union will continue its dialogue with Sri Lanka during this period to try and iron out issues, so that the tariff concessions can be restored," Savage said.

The suspension follows a year-long European Commission probe that concluded that the Sri Lankan government was in breach of commitments on human rights and good governance that come with the preferential trade status.

The EU probe identified shortcomings in respect of three UN human rights conventions — the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Sri Lanka, which ended a decades-old internal conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels in May, is one of 16 countries benefiting from an EU deal giving its exporters easier access to the EU market.

Sri Lanka gains about 150 million dollars annually due to preferential tariffs, according to trade estimates. The island’s clothing industry is the main beneficiary, using the tax breaks to sell to high street retailers in Europe.

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