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Sri Lanka set to lose trade concessions on human rights records

A European Union (EU) investigation has found that Sri Lanka has breached of international human rights laws and were likely to lose more than $ 100 million worth export concessions from European countries.

world Updated: Oct 19, 2009 19:54 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

A European Union (EU) investigation has found that Sri Lanka has breached of international human rights laws and were likely to lose more than $ 100 million worth export concessions from European countries.

On Monday, the EU published the findings of the yearlong investigation alleged human rights violations in the war between the Sri Lankan government and the separatist LTTE. Government forces finally defeated the LTTE in May this year.

"The report comes to the conclusion that Sri Lanka is in breach of its commitments. We will now prepare for a legal proposal to remove the additional trade preferences which may enter into force mid-next year," a Reuters news report from Brussels quoted an EU's executive Commission spokesperson as having said.

EU sources said the report showed evidence of police violence, torture and breaches of labour laws, notably the use of underage children.

"The evidence is very clear that Sri Lanka does not fulfil the basic human rights conditions of GSP Plus," one EU source said, in reference to a system of preferential tariffs -- sometimes as low as zero -- for the world's poorest countries.

Reuters added that Brussels consistently warned Sri Lanka that it must meet 27 international human rights conventions to retain its Generalised System of Preference Plus trade scheme. Suspending the preferential tariffs would hit Sri Lanka's textile industry hard and many fear big job cuts as a result.

In 2008, the European Union was Sri Lanka's largest export market, accounting for 36 percent of all exports, followed by the United States with 24 percent. Garments earned the country a record $3.47 billion from EU markets and were its top source of foreign exchange, followed by remittances of $3 billion and tea exports of $1.2 billion.

The Commission will discuss Monday's report and decide by the end of November whether to propose to EU member states that they temporarily suspend Sri Lanka's GSP Plus status. A decision would likely take effect around June next year, six months from a vote by member states, a Commission official said.