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EU to cut S.Lanka’s trade benefits over human rights

[AFP, Monday, 5 July 2010 12:10 No Comment]

The European Union decided Monday to withdraw trade concessions in August granted to Sri Lanka after the government failed to make a written commitment to improve its human rights record.

Sri Lanka will "temporarily" lose its preferential access to the EU market from August 15 after it missed a July 1 deadline to deliver the pledge, the EU said in a statement.

The EU had offered to delay its action by six months in exchange for the written assurances.

"We very much regret the choice of Sri Lanka not to take up an offer made in good faith and in line with the EU commitment to a global human rights agenda," EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

"We will however keep the door open for Sri Lanka to return to talks," she said.

The GSP+ scheme gives 16 poor nations preferential access to the vast European market in return for following strict commitments on a variety of social and rights issues.

Sri Lanka’s hawkish government has faced almost constant criticism in the past several years over the way it conducted a war against Tamil Tiger separatist rebels who were finally defeated in May 2009.

Government forces have been accused of a host of rights violations including the indiscriminate killing of thousands of Tamil civilians, the murder of aid workers and the execution of surrendering rebels.

In a newspaper interview last week, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse shrugged off the EU threat to withdraw the trade benefits.

Asked about the risk of losing trade concessions worth an estimated 150 million dollars a year because of his resistance to EU pressure, Rajapakse told the Times of India: "I am not bothered."

"If the EU doesn’t want to give it, let them keep it. I don’t want it. We have gone and explained what we have done."

[Full Coverage]

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