EU to cut duty on apparel exports
Sri Lankan apparel exporters will get a five percent duty reduction in the European Union market (EU), Ravi Karunanayake, Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, announced last week. He was speaking at a seminar to discuss Sri Lanka's performance at the failed Cancun ministerial meeting.

Karunanayake attributed the duty reductions to what he called Sri Lanka's good performance at the Cancun ministerial meeting. He said that China would also give duty concessions if China imports goods from Sri Lanka.

Karunanayke said, "We did not jeopardize our SAARC status and supported our regional friends as long as they supported our domestic needs. We did what was best for our country."

With regard to the Singapore issues, which led to the ultimate collapse of the meeting, Karunanayake said that Sri Lanka supported two out of the four Singapore issues which were transparency and trade facilitation. The minister said he firmly believes that Sri Lanka will stand to gain a lot through multilateral trade.

Karunanayake also it would be beneficial to the Sri Lankan economy to concentrate more on manufactured and value added goods. He cited as an example the big demand for fridges and fans from Indian and Pakistani tourist at the duty free complex.

"Value addition will ensure a 7 - 8 percent growth in the economy within the next two years," he said. Speaking at the seminar the secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Harsha Wickramasinghe said, " We have to make our selves more proactive. To penetrate markets today we must improve our products. There is no consistency in the quality of our agriculture products and therefore we are unable to meet standards. Hence tariffs are legitimate as there are high costs involved in trying to adopt these standards."

No substitute for WTO-Brazil
Brazil, one of the countries, which led the Third World bloc at the recent Cancun trade talks, has said that there is no substitute for the World Trade Organization (WTO), and that problems in world commerce cannot be solved through bilateral agreements.

In a recent interview with Newsweek, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said that nobody wins in a trade war and that not even the US would want a trade war with developing nations.

According to Amorim the talks did not break down because of agriculture but because of the insistence of Western nations on discussing the Singapore Agenda - rules for government procurement, trade financing and competitiveness. Until that point the talks progressed well and delegates were ready to negotiate adjustments to agricultural subsidies.

"We achieved a political victory," he said. "Despite the initial resistance, we were treated as a legitimate negotiating party, not as a grouplet of countries over in the corner shouting and creating obstacles."

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