What good is GSP plus if the 58 conditions undermines Sri Lanka’s national sovereignty & security?
Posted on January 16th, 2017
Shenali D Waduge
What is the better human rights that EU boasts of that is not prevalent in other parts of the world? Does the EU member states not suffer crimes and violations of any kind? Is it honky dory in EU 28 nations that they can dictate trade deals with other nations? Is EU nations not guilty of hate crimes and racism? The crux of the matter is the 58 conditions that EU demands to return GSP plus facility to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s decision makers must realize that we are first a sovereign nation, an island which has a proud history unmatched by any of the 28 nations dictating terms. Many of these countries are what they are having come to our part of the world fleeced, plundered and murdered our people and with those stolen wealth become rich nations. These EU nations need to also be reminded that many of them gave safe haven to LTTE terrorists and continue to allow LTTE fronts to operate on their turf. In taking the statistical records it is also clear that even despite the removal of GSP, trade has not dropped and this is a key indicator. Governments and their officials should not function as doormats to bully nations. A government and officials are expected to keep our nations flag flying, keeping the respect of the nation and people without appeasing to the carrot and stick approach being adopted.
The return of the GSP plus is said to come ONLY IF Sri Lanka agrees to implementing 58 conditions imposed by EU. Conditions that EU has not presented to any other country and conditions that NO OTHER COUNTRY is likely to agree to. Therefore, like the UN Resolutions and demands, these conditions must be an experiment to see how far the West can bully appeasing governments and weaken a nation’s sovereign status.
What are some these 58 conditions?
- EU demands Sri Lanka REVOKE the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) – why would 28 EU nations want us to remove a key ACT that enables a govt to take quick action in the event of calamity especially acts of Terror?
- EU demands Sri Lanka expedite cases of remaining detainees – why is the EU so interested in LTTE cadres most of whom are those who surrendered during the final stage of the conflict? Shouldn’t legal action be taken to hold them guilty for their crimes?
- EU demands Sri Lanka review STATUS of Tamil diaspora organizations and individuals on the UNSC Resolution 1373 LTTE front list – why is the EU states so concerned about their removal? What does LTTE diaspora have to do with trade deals between countries?
- EU demands Sri Lanka devolve powers under the new Constitution? Is Sri Lanka’s constitution being made to the interest of the People of Sri Lanka or the interests of the EU states? We recently had one Canadian Mayor probably associated with the same category of people EU is trying to delist going beyond her authority http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Canadian-Mayor-receives-backlash-over-pact-with-Vavuniya-122095.html?fbrefresh=refresh
- EU demands Sri Lanka return all private lands to owners in the North? Are these not internal affairs of a sovereign country to sort out? Do we go telling the EU how to run their nations? For starters why not acknowledge, apologize and compensate us for almost 500 years of colonial crimes we suffered?
- EU demands Sri Lanka adopt a policy of National Reconciliation & National Resettlement? Again are these not areas of internal interest. Moreover, the military onslaught was against LTTE terrorists whom the EU have also proscribed. The military onslaught was not against any minority. We do not need to reconcile with terrorists. We have resettled more people in the shortest of time while demining the areas unlike all the millions that have been displaced by US/NATO bombing.
Let’s take a look at how great the human rights records of the EU is and lets not forget that the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 went to the European Union for its transformation “from a continent of war to a continent of peace” and its focus on “peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights,” (It was no different to US President Obama receiving the Nobel Peace prize – in 2016 alone on his orders 26171 bombs had been dropped on 7 nations!
It is hilarious that the very countries that are dictating to countries about rights violations and rule of law are the one’s who should be ashamed of their own records and thus have no moral right to be demanding conditions countries must conform to make trade deals when minorities are being ill-treated on their turf!
- According to Fair Trials International and the international law firm Clifford Chance – Greece, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania are the worst European Union countries at delivering justice through criminal trials – In some EU countries pre-trial detention can last for up to four years; others have no legal maximum
- According to HRW 2016 report – EU states have not addressed the 850,000 refugee asylum seekers, Hungary closed its doors to asylum seekers, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia allowed only certain nationalities to enter, spike in hate crimes against Muslims especially in UK and France, EU leaders are on record to say they will only accept Christian refugees and not Muslims! France enacted a law permitting the government to conduct sweeping digital surveillance on broad grounds and without prior judicial authorization, in breach of the right to privacy. In Germany, Federal police registered 473 attacks on asylum accommodations while anti-migrant protests were held throughout the country. The London Metropolitan Police recorded respective increases of 22 percent and 46.7 percent in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic crimes in London between January and July 2015. Also note, UK’s Counter Terrorism laws are NOT in line with International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- In France, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about discrimination against migrants and “people of foreign origin” – faced in education, housing, culture, healthcare,
- Inspite of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign against Yemen, EU states continue to send arms to Saudi Arabia http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/saudi-arabia-uk-arms-exports-trade-calls-embargo-yemen-conflict-a6991851.html (have the EU nations given any thought to the suffering of Yemeni citizens – according to UNICEF at least 462,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition with 2.2m in need of urgent care and a Yemeni dying every 10minutes.
- UK – According to the Home Office, 44,480 hate crimes were reported in 2013-2014, a 5 percent increase over the previous year. Over 80 percent of these crimes were related to race.
- Germany – In 2011, a study by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research found 47.1 percent of Germans believe there are too many foreigners in the country. Nearly 30 percent agreed foreigners should be removed from Germany if jobs became scarce
The examples that can be cited are too many.
EU is a bloc of nations coming together enbloc for THEIR POLITICAL INTEREST ALONE. These 28 member nations make up one voice even inside the UN.
The countries that GSP plus is extended to are Armenia, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Paraguay and the Philippines – other than Pakistan and Philippines the other countries are not so much in global spotlight! Is the list this small because other countries have refused to undermine their national security & sovereignty? http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=1006
For some unusual reason trade agreements are always tied to demands specifically aiming to weaken a country. Let us not forget that the EU nations have been voting en bloc against Sri Lanka.
In 2005, the GSP plus came after agreeing to 27 conditions but with no changes made to the rules of origin. This meant that apparel exporters had to show domestic double transformation from yarn to fabric and fabric to garment (over 50% domestic value addition which Sri Lanka could not as we have no domestic yarn and fabric base). Only 35% of raw materials are sourced locally by the apparel industry and the rest is imported. That imported fabric is at most times more than 50% cost of the finished garment.
January-September 2004 – exports to EU was US$ 716.2 million
January-September 2005 – exports to EU was US$ 720.2 million (no significant change after GSP)
2014 – 31% exports to EU (for the EU, Sri Lanka is an unimportant entity accounting for just 0.1% of EU trade) EU investment in Sri Lanka was US$ 535 million (Saman Kelegama)
While apparel exporters estimated GSP usage to be around 20% of total exports to the EU, the Commerce Dept claims it to be 17% (LBO, 2005) with local authorities trying to reduce the domestic value addition from 50% to 35%.
In August 2010 EU decides to revoke GSP plus on grounds of human rights violations and not implementing 3 international HR conventions (the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture (CAT) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – (the EU must have been asleep when LTTE was on a killing spree). The withdrawal in concessions was said to affect apparel industry the loss of $100 million.
In 2008, the EU was Sri Lanka’s largest export market, accounting for 36 percent of all exports accounting for USD $3.47 billion from EU markets.
However, according to Dilshani Samaraweera a writer on labor matters claims withdrawal of GSP in 2010 did not impact local economy and exports to US and EU had increased compared to 2009.
Benefits to European buyers, Companies, Employers & Investors
The apparel industry generates $3.2billion exports accounting for 45% of export revenue.
Zones were set up giving special incentives in the 1980s to attract foreign investors.
Union activists can only enter with permission from employers.
Trade concessions have benefitted companies and employers but not so much the workers. So in whose interest is GSP plus?
Moreover it is important to investigate reasons for closure of companies/factories? Is it the inefficiency of the management or GSP plus removal?
Benefits to Workers
The Sri Lanka Apparel industry employs about 300,000 people. Workers in the freetrade zone (export processing zones) earn about $100 a month with overtime and other additional payments (just over Rs.15,000) These young girls are around 20 years of age and coming from rural villages and a third of what they earn go towards boarding most of which are in poor conditions.
Over 50,000 workers have since lost jobs due to recession. Unions allege that some factories have shut down (between 2008-2011 – 50 such companies have shut down) citing recession and reopened as new units.
Workers wages and related benefits have not been on par with those enjoyed by companies/employers. There is no system that profits gets distributed to the workers without whose contributions companies would not exist!
Leaving all this aside, no government should agree to compromise and sacrifice a country’s national security and national sovereignty just for a trade deal that impacts only a segment of society. We elect leaders to function on behalf of the state and not other countries or foreign companies. To boast of winning a trade at the peril of losing, weakening and sacrificing national sovereignty is treason. We do not want to see another Volkswagen embarrassment occurring in Sri Lanka therefore the current government must keep in mind that it is in power to serve the nation and not the EU
Moreover with nationalism sweeping across the EU, it is likely that EU as an en bloc political bully will collapse.
Shenali D Waduge