Ambassadors seek clarifications and likely timeframe for lifting of restrictions
A significant decline in foreign earnings, including a severe drop in tourism revenue, had prompted the Government to impose import restrictions to protect the currency and bolster debt repayment sustainability, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained to European Union ambassadors this week defending Government policy.
Minister Gunawardena received the Ambassadors of Italy, Germany, Netherlands, France, Romania and the EU Delegation based in Colombo, at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, to discuss recent developments, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EU Ambassadors reaffirmed their desire to continue to further strengthen bilateral relations with Sri Lanka with a special focus on further advancing trade, investment and tourism sector cooperation.
The Ambassadors highlighted that Sri Lanka’s exports to the EU market worth EUR 2.3 billion, continued to grow and benefit from the EU GSP+, which allows duty free access for over 6,000 export product categories.
In this regard, the Ambassadors sought clarifications regarding the recent import restrictions that were enforced and the likely timeframe the restrictions would be lifted.
Foreign Minister Gunawardena explained the challenges Sri Lanka was facing on its economy and the foreign currency reserves due to the significant reduction in remittances and tourism revenues induced by the COVID-19 global pandemic. He underlined that the import restrictions are reviewed as we move along.
The Government’s current import restrictions are having a negative impact on Sri Lankan and European businesses, and on Foreign Direct Investment, the Delegation of the European Union (EU) said Thursday.
Minister Gunawardena appreciated the assistance provided by the EU countries to Sri Lanka for economic and social recovery from COVID-19 pandemic, including the continued assistance for several development projects, particularly in the education, skills development, agriculture, and dairy development and water supply sectors and in investments with the private sector.
The Foreign Minister also assured that Sri Lanka was committed to achieving the SDGs and to addressing issues related to reconciliation through a credible domestic process. The Ambassadors appreciated the cordial, open and continued dialogue between the EU member states and Sri Lanka on a number of issues of shared interest.
Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry were also present at the meeting.