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EU External Trade: Sri Lanka

Volume 483: debated on Tuesday 18 November 2008

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what requirements apply to third countries under the Generalised System of Preferences plus (GSP plus) programme; and what timetable has been set for the European Commission’s investigation of compliance of Sri Lanka with its obligations under GSP plus. (235463)

The Generalised System of Preferences plus (GSP plus) scheme is a special incentive scheme granted to countries that are classified as a vulnerable economy and are willing to ratify, implement and adhere to 27 core conventions on human rights, labour rights, environment and good governance. The full list of conventions can be found on page 30.6.2005 of the official journal of the European Union.

Countries currently receiving GSP plus have had three years to ratify and implement the 27 core conventions, the deadline for this was 31 October 2008. New applicants also had to submit applications by this date but must have also ratified and be effectively implementing all 27 core conventions.

GSP plus countries are expected to uphold these conventions. Failure to do so results in them being temporarily withdrawn from the scheme and, depending on the seriousness of the breach, can lead to a temporary withdrawal from the Generalised System of Preferences therefore losing all preferential access to the EU.

For the period 2009 to 2011, to be eligible for GSP plus, a country must meet the following ‘vulnerability criteria’:

it has not been classified as a high income country during three consecutive years, and the five largest sections of its GSP-covered exports to the Community represent more than 75 per cent. in value of its total GSP-covered exports; and

GSP-covered imports into the Community represent less than 1 per cent. in value of the total GSP-covered Community imports.

Separately, the European Commission announced its GSP plus related investigation of Sri Lanka on the 18 October 2008. The Government of Sri Lanka have four months in which to submit evidence to the investigation team. The investigation could take up to a year.