A high level U.S. delegation will arrive in Sri Lanka next week to discuss the U.S. Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme among other trade matters, a senior U.S. Government official said.
The delegation arrives at a time when serious concerns were raised by exporters and traders on the continuity of the U.S. GSP, as President Donald Trump announced the termination of the same concession to India earlier this month.
Several political parties and other groups, with vested interests, alleged that U.S. is using the GSP concession against Sri Lanka to exert power in forcing the Government to sign the controversial Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
When asked about such concerns, the U.S. official stated: “The SOFA and the GSP are two different matters and the U.S. Government does not want to force the Sri Lankan Government to enter into the SOFA against its will.”
U.S. GSP to Sri Lanka lapsed on 31 December 2017, and was renewed by the U.S. Congress on 23 March 2018. The U.S. President signed the legislation authorising the renewal till 31 December 2020.
Currently, nearly 3,500 different products from Sri Lanka are eligible to access the U.S. market on a duty-free basis under the GSP scheme.
These include selected manufactured items, inputs used in manufacturing jewellery, carpets, selected agricultural and fishery products, and selected types of chemicals, minerals and marble.
“The delegates will meet Minister Malik Samarawickrama and his officials. They will also talk to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on the GSP to see if more exports from Sri Lanka are possible,” he said.
The U.S. is also aware of the sensitivity of certain articles in the visiting forces agreement, he said. “This is clearly recognised with regard to the prosecution of U.S. personnel who might commit a crime in Sri Lanka. We will prosecute such persons under U.S. military laws.
This avoids political issues that can arise if another nation holds a U.S. military officer. Its assumed that the fact that wrongdoers will be punished under U.S. military law would deter bad behaviour but this is a very sensitive issue,” he said.
The U.S. expects any future Government to respect the international obligations taken on by the current administration, this official told a group of journalists yesterday (12).
The senior official also said, the last three years have seen an expansion in the U.S.-Sri Lanka relationship and whether those changes occurred with a change in Government is yet to be decided.
“We want any Government, that comes, to respect human rights and democracy.
We also want them to continue to respect the international obligations taken on by the present administration. We have a 70-year-old relationship with Sri Lanka and that will continue in some form,” he said.