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Sri Lanka’s National Exports Seminar: FLA Report

The Fair Labour Alliance reports on Sri Lanka’s national Exports Seminar.

Anisha Rajapakse, Director of Stakeholder Engagement for the Fair Labour Alliance (FLA) led the discussion at a national seminar held in Sri Lanka on 2 September 2019.

Organised by the Commerce Department, Delegation of the EU to Sri Lanka and the Maldives and European Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka in Colombo, ‘Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU: Impact of GSP Plus’ focused on Sri Lanka’s progression in the implementation of 27 EU international conventions in the areas of human rights, labour rights and environment.

Leading the Way in Fair Labour Conversations

The FLA moderated the panel discussion on ‘GSP+ and Sri Lanka’s exports to the European Union: Challenges and the Way Forward’. The seminar covered:

· The importance of labour rights in current trade relations challenges between the EU and Sri Lanka – highlighted by Anisha in her opening statement

· Sri Lanka’s compliance with international labour and environmental standards

· Maintaining the existing positive labour relations and labour standards to stay competitive in the global market

· How businesses can be more proactive to ensure sustainable supply chains

· Businesses taking ownership of labour rights across supply chains

The panellists included:

· Head of the EU Delegation to Sri Lanka – Mr. Thorsten Bargfrede

· Nikolas Zaimis – Senior Adviser on Sustainable Development

· Walter van Hattum, Coordinator GSP Trade Preferences

· Rudi Delarue, from the DG for Employment

· Elina Laurinen, Senior Trade Expert

· Heads of the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka

· The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka and Jeevanie Siriwardane

· Director General of the Export Development Board (EDB).

The seminar coincided with the visit of the GSP+ and Human Rights bi-annual monitoring team from Brussels and was attended by around 150 people including representatives from business, diplomatic missions and trade associations.

GSP+, the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus, is part of the EU’s wider GSP regulation, which also includes the standard GSP and Everything But Arms (EBA). GSP+ allows eligible countries to pay no duties on a wide range of exports to the EU. GSP+ status is dependent upon the ratification and implementation of 27 international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental protection, and good governance.

Ethical Working Practices in Sri Lanka

With the reinstatement of the GSP+ in 2017, Sri Lanka had committed to comply with the international conventions in order to be eligible for the EU GSP+ trade facility. The EU and Sri Lanka have strong economic, trade and investment relations and EU is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner with 16% of total trade in 2018, before India (4.2 billion euro) and China (3.9 billion euro).

The countries currently benefiting from GSP+ are Armenia, Bolivia, Cabo Verde, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Paraguay, and the Philippines. Compared to many other countries in the Asia Pacific region, Sri Lanka has the highest compliance with international labour and environmental standards - giving the country a distinct comparative advantage, especially in the protection of worker conditions and rights.

Advancing Fair Labour Around the World

The Fair Labour Alliance is a practical commercial innovation programme that aims to improve global fair labour standards and create working practices that benefits workers, businesses and communities.

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