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The European Union wishes to reiterate that the ratification and implementation of 27 international conventions signed by a succession of Sri Lankan governments, are the only criteria on which the Government of Sri Lanka's application to rejoin the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) is assessed. These conventions relate to international human rights, labour rights, environmental standards and good governance. Benefitting from GSP+ requires the government to undertake to make further progress in implementing the conventions and to cooperate with the EU to monitor implementation and address shortcomings.
More generally, the European Union supports the leadership shown by this government in committing to address historic and long-standing problems that have caused conflict and negatively affected the lives and living standards of all Sri Lankans. This includes the undertakings made, for instance, in the resolution that Sri Lanka co-sponsored at the UN Human Rights Council. The European Union is working with the government and civil society organisations to structure our support and engagement to positively contribute to the government's national reconciliation and good governance aims.
The EU is Sri Lanka's biggest export market, accounting for nearly one-third of Sri Lanka's global exports. In 2015, total bilateral trade amounted to €4.7 billion. The EU's Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance, GSP+, is part of EU's unilateral tariff preferences in favour of developing countries. The GSP+ scheme is designed to help developing countries by granting full removal of tariffs on over 66% of tariff lines covering a very wide array of products including, for example, textiles and fisheries. The GSP Regulation sets strict and clear criteria for granting GSP+. Firstly, the applicant must meet economic criteria, i.e. it must be a vulnerable developing country with a non-diversified economy and low level of imports into the EU. Secondly, the country must have ratified the 27 international conventions required under GSP+. It must not have formulated reservations which are prohibited by these conventions, and the most recent conclusions of the monitoring bodies under those conventions must not identify any serious failure to effectively implement them. The new GSP Regulation provides for continuous monitoring of the GSP+ beneficiaries' obligations. Once a country is granted GSP+, the EU must, therefore, monitor that it abides by its commitments, namely to: maintain ratification of the international conventions covered by GSP+; ensure their effective implementation; comply with reporting requirements; accept regular monitoring in accordance with the conventions; and cooperate with the EU and provide all necessary information.
There are currently 8 GSP+ beneficiaries: Armenia, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Paraguay and the Philippines.