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EU to withdraw Sri Lanka's GSP+ concessions over poor human rights record

By Devaki

London, July 6 (ANI): The European Union has decided to withdraw Sri Lanka's preferential trade access to EU from 15th August after the country refused to give written pledges to improve its human rights record.

According to the BBC, the island nation had failed to make a written promise of progress on three human rights conventions, which deal with torture, children's rights, and civil and political rights.

The deal known as the General Services Preferential Plus (GSP+) gives 16 developing countries trade benefits in return for set commitments.

According to the report, Sri Lanka rejected the offer saying it amounted to interference in the internal affairs of the country. Last month, the government said the request was an insult to Sri Lankans and should be placed 'in the dustbin'.

President Mahinda Rajaspaksa, who has often denounced foreign criticism, has shrugged off the decision, saying that they do not need the concessions.

"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," BBC quoted Rajaspaksa, as saying.

Sri Lanka may lose around hundreds of millions of US dollars in apparel exports a year, due to the end of trade concessions from the European Union from August.

In 2008, the island country's exports to the EU totaled 1.24billion euros.

The Sri Lankan government has faced repeated accusations of human rights violations carried out during its civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels, which the military won in 2009.

The EU was particularly critical of alleged human rights abuses during the last stages of the war.

"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.

According to the report, the move may not necessarily be a huge blow to the government, but could affect its business. Sri Lanka's garments industry is likely to be impacted the most, as it enjoys tax breaks to sell to retailers in Europe. (ANI)

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