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Sri Lanka dismisses EU withdrawal of trade concessions

business Updated: Jul 06, 2010 11:01 IST

AFP
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Sri Lanka on Tuesday shrugged off a European Union decision to withdraw tariff concessions over the island's failure to guarantee an improvement in its human rights record.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said Colombo had already arranged relief to export businesses that would be affected by Sri Lanka no longer receiving preferential access to European Union markets.

"We are not accepting EU conditions. Our position is very clear," Rambukwella said.

"We have already made alternate arrangements to help the exporters who may be affected by this."

The minister previously dismissed the EU conditions as "insulting to every Sri Lankan" and vowed the government would not back down.

Sri Lanka's hawkish government faced widespread criticism for many years over its war against Tamil Tiger separatist rebels, who were finally defeated in May 2009.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has also rejected calls for an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed during the conflict.

The EU announced on Monday that Sri Lanka would lose its preferential access from August 15 after it missed a July 1 deadline to deliver written pledges on improving human rights.

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 Brussels.

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

The EU trade concession known as GSP+ gives 16 poor nations preferential access to the vast European market in return for commitments on social and rights issues.