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EU withdraws Sri Lanka's special trade status

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • EU withdraws Sri Lanka's preferential trade status with Europe
  • EU says country failed to implement three human rights conventions
  • Sri Lanka still qualifies for special European trade status

(CNN) -- The European Union said Monday it has temporarily withdrawn Sri Lanka's preferential trade status with EU countries because of failure to implement three human rights conventions.

Sri Lanka now no longer qualifies for a tariff system called GSP+, a preferential import regime for economically vulnerable developing countries.

The island nation still qualifies for the standard GSP trade status, however, which gives it preferential access to the EU market for key export items like clothing, the European Union said.

The European Council of Ministers decided to withdraw Sri Lanka's GSP+ status in February but delayed acting on it for six months to allow the country to make progress on the issues.

Sri Lanka's government had until July 1 to promise to address the problems, but it failed to do so, the EU said.

"We very much regret the choice of Sri Lanka not to take up an offer made in good faith and in line with the EU commitment to a global human rights agenda," said European Commission Vice President Catherine Ashton. "We will, however, keep the door open for Sri Lanka to return to talks."

Countries that receive the special trade status must ratify and implement 27 international conventions in labour and human rights, the EU said.

A year-long investigation by the commission that ended in October last year found Sri Lanka had "significant shortcomings" in implenting three human rights conventions: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the EU said.