03rd May, 2017
Ceylon Chamber Welcomes GSP Plus Prospects as Boost for Exports; Must use GSP Plus period as ‘breathing space’ rather than ‘comfort zone’
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce is encouraged by the prospects of regaining the GSP Plus trade preferences and is hopeful that the final vote at the EU Council of Ministers will be favorable. The granting of GSP Plus to Sri Lanka once again will have a significant positive impact on the country’s exports to the European Union. It comes at a good time for the country as overall exports have been flagging and has affected the country’s external payments position. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce commends the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Commerce, who were instrumental in this victory. The process that led up to this vote was no doubt arduous, but has reiterated the importance of international diplomatic engagement for Sri Lanka.
The regaining of GSP Plus at this time is welcome also because EU economies are showing signs of economic recovery, which would hopefully improve demand condition in key European markets. Apparels, fresh and processed food products, seafood, toys, ceramics and porcelain, are some of the sectors that will benefit from the additional tariff concession under GSP Plus. Given that most orders have already been finalized for the year 2017, the real boost is likely to be seen from 2018. Nevertheless, several Chamber member companies noted that they are already in contact with EU buyers who are keen to place new orders as soon as the GSP Plus is reinstated.
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce now calls on the government to launch a targeted and accelerated programme to support sectors capable of expanding their exports to the EU. This can range from funds for technology upgrading and innovation; targeted support for market development; addressing labour shortages; and fast-tracking approvals and certifications. The government’s trade and export agencies, together with the exporter community, can collectively embark on a focused competitiveness programme, using the GSP Plus period as ‘breathing space’ rather than a ‘comfort zone’. Since the country approaches ‘Upper Middle Income’ status and will thereafter not be eligible for GSP Plus, building export competitiveness beyond the GSP Plus concession is crucial.