Foreign Minister assures lifting import ban
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
On the concerns raised by the Colombo-based Heads of Missions representing the European Union (EU) and its Member States over the banning of EU imports to Sri Lanka, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dinesh Gunawardena said, import restrictions are under review and through the Sustainable Development Goals, Sri Lanka will address issues related to reconciliation through a credible domestic process.
Ambassadors of Italy, Germany,The Netherlands, France, Romania and the EU Delegation based in Colombo, met Gunawardena at the Foreign Ministry on 18 November, to discuss recent developments, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic where they had raised concerns on several issues.
The EU, held a series of high-level meetings and highlighted that Sri Lanka enjoys competitive, predominantly duty- and quota-free access to the EU market, based on the continued implementation of 27 international conventions on human rights, labour, environment, climate change and good governance.
They stated, not least due to these unilateral trade preferences, the EU is the second biggest export market for Sri Lanka worldwide, with a positive trade balance of more than Euro one billion EUR (approximately Rs 220 billion) in 2018 and 2019.
They underlined that trade cannot be a one-way street in terms of the trade partnership between the EU and Sri Lanka.
Gunawardena explained the challenges Sri Lanka was facing on its economy and the foreign currency reserves due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenues induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The EU Ambassadors reaffirmed their desire to continue to further strengthen bilateral relations with Sri Lanka with a special focus on further advancing trade, investment and tourism sector cooperation.
The Ambassadors highlighted, Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU market worth Euro 2.3 billion, continued to grow and benefit from the EU Generalised Scheme/System of Preferences Plus, which allows duty free access for over 6,000 export product categories.
Gunawardena appreciated the assistance provided by the EU countries to Sri Lanka for economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the continued assistance for several development projects, particularly in the education, skills development, agriculture, and dairy development and water supply sectors and with investments in the private sector.
The Ambassadors appreciated the cordial, open and continued dialogue between the EU Member States and Sri Lanka on a number of issues of shared interests.