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EU freezes Sri Lanka trade scheme
Trade benefits suspended after Sri Lanka rejects pressure to improve rights record.
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2010 05:29 GMT
Sri Lanka's government has rejected the EU demands saying they violate its sovereignty [Reuters]

The European Union has announced it is suspending a preferential trade scheme with Sri Lanka after the country refused to make written pledges to improve its human rights record.

Announcing the move on Monday, Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs chief, said she regretted Sri Lanka's decision "not to take up an offer made in good faith", but she said the EU would "keep the door open" for Sri Lanka to return to talks.

Sri Lanka has said the EU's demands are a violation of its sovereignty and part of a Western campaign to punish it after it defeated Tamil Tiger separatists in May 2009.

In February the EU said it was giving Sri Lanka six months to enact three UN accords on issues such as torture, children's rights and civil and political rights, no action was taken.

As a result from August 15 Sri Lankan fisheries products and clothing will be subject to new taxes.

EU officials have given no estimate of the financial impact of the loss of preferential treatment.

In 2008, Sri Lankan exports to the EU totalled $1.55bn

In Colombo, Sri Lanka's Media Minister dismissed the EU's move, saying the annual loss would amount to just $107m.

"We will not accept the conditions put forward by the EU," Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters. "We are very clear on that."

He added that the Sri Lankan government had made "alternative arrangements" and was looking at other markets to compensate for the losses.

The EU's move is the latest example of the growing international criticism directed at Sri Lanka's government for not examining abuses allegedly committed during the final phase of the country's long-running civil war.

Source:
Agencies
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