European Union External Action

Trade Related Assistance in Sri Lanka: Increasing SMEs Trade Competitiveness in Regional and EU Markets

28/06/2017 - 10:45
Private Sector Development

Overall Objective: Contribute to Sri Lanka's inclusive trade-led growth and regional integration, thereby contributing to poverty alleviation.

Specific Objective: Increased trade competitiveness of Sri Lankan SMEs in regional and EU markets


Total Cost (EUR): 7 850 000

EU contracted amount (EUR): 7 850 000

Duration: November 2016 - October 2020

Implementing organisations: International Trade Centre and UNIDO

Funding Instrument: Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI)

Benefitting zone: Sri Lanka


STORY: Trade Related Assistance in Sri Lanka: Increasing Trade Competitiveness in Regional and EU Markets


"Sri Lanka is engaged in Free Trade Agreements and is further negotiating trade agreements that seek greater market access in selected markets. The project supports Sri Lanka by strengthening government officers' capacities to conduct trade negotiations, developing private sector skills to export and contribute to policy making and creating much awareness on international trade."

Ms. Sonali Wijeratne, Director General of Commerce, Department of Commerce


Sri Lanka is liberalizing its economy, entering and currently negotiating various multilateral, regional and bilateral Free Trade Agreements. Exporting SMEs face however many difficulties and do not fully benefit from these new market opportunities. These obstacles include the lack of information to understand complex multilateral, regional and domestic trading environments as well as capacities to comply with market requirements.


  • The project wishes to achieve four main objectives:
  • A coherent, designed and implemented trade strategy for export competitiveness. This strategy should include policies, regulatory reforms and trade negotiations as shaped by the World Trade Organisation, the regional integration process and the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+).
  • Increased efficiency of cross-border procedures and small and medium enterprises' (SMEs) capacities to comply with cross-border procedures for exporting to South Asian (SAARC) and EU markets.
  • Improved compliance and Quality Infrastructure services to meet requirements of the regional and EU markets.
  • Increased SMEs' competitiveness in export-oriented sectors (i.e Spices, Food and ITO/BPO industry).


  • A GSP+ business guide for Sri Lankan SMEs published in English, Sinhala and Tamil - The guide provides practical and business information for Sri Lankan businesses on the EU's preferential market access conditions. Using the GSP+ scheme, Sri Lankan exporters benefit from no tariffs or enjoy tariff reductions on eligible products. These benefits allows exporters to sell these products at more competitive prices on the EU market, thereby opening newer opportunities for increased trade.
  • More that 200 private and public service officials have been trained in the four main cities of Colombo, Kandy, Galle and Jaffna.
  • More than 20 private sector representatives increased their business advocacy skills as a result of training programmes in Colombo and Brussels.
  • A trade policy training curricula has been developed and embedded within country organisations for sustained use. Two prominent Sri Lankan institutions – the Postgraduate Institute of Management and the National Institute of Exports – incorporated courses on International Trade Law and Economics in their own training curricula.


Ms. Jayani Ratnayake, Economist at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

"The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has identified areas for improving its business advocacy and analytical work. One of the main learnings has been how we can strengthen and capitalize our existing network in Sri Lanka. It is very important for us to work together with other private sector chambers as well as public institutions to lobby for certain things to achieve bigger impact.

"In this regard, the Chamber of Commerce has already put into practice the skills gained through the project and organised a round of consultations for the private sector and with other Chambers to provide inputs to free trade agreement negotiations. As a result, very effective feedback was provided by the private sector, helping the negotiations team to schedule commitments in the current negotiations on trade in services.

"We at the Chamber are now putting into place some major steps towards digitization and improving our presence on social media platforms, which will be an important mechanism for the Chamber’s future advocacy work. The training provided by the project in Brussels highlighted that we could use digital platforms to improve our communications as well as visibility not just for members but for a larger segment of the society to advocate the positive outcome for our economy."


  • 4 year project (2016-2020) in 4 major cities of Jaffna, Colombo, Galle and Kandy.
  • 2 key Ministries have benefited from the project (Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Department of Commerce and Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade).
  • Other beneficiaries include the Attorney General’s Department, the National Plant Quarantine Service, Sri Lanka Export Development Board, Department of labour and a wide range of private sector actors.