US GSP programme under review

The US Trade Department continues to discuss labour issues with Sri Lankan authorities and trade unions, though a fresh round of the US GSP programme, which expired in December 2010, is yet to be approved by Congress.

“Though there is no US GSP programme for all countries including Sri Lanka, we continue to discuss labour issues with local authorities,” Economic Counsellor- US Embassy, Edward Heartney commenting on the status of the US GSP programme, told the Sunday Times.

Last week, International Economist, Trade Policy & Negotiation Division- US Trade Office, Michael O. Donovan visited Sri Lanka and met trade union officials and others for discussions on labour issues and those connected to the GSP programme.

General Secretary- Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union of Sri Lanka, Anton Marcus said that, since the GSP programme is off the rack, the US review of a petition filed by Sri Lankan unions over labour rights and freedom of association, has also been suspended (since January this year).
“The review doesn’t arise (at the moment) because there is no US GSP programme and the petition was connected to this,” Mr Marcus said.

However, Mr Marcus confirmed that there has been much work by a tripartite group including the ILO, trade unions and employers, on improving relations and labour issues in the workplace, under a project funded by the US Government.

The US embassy, in a statement, said that, ‘Congress has not voted on whether to renew GSP on a worldwide basis. GSP has lapsed in the past and historically Congress has renewed the benefits retroactively. Congress may renew GSP this calendar year, but the decision to approve GSP benefits must be taken by the US Congress, and it has not yet done so’.

Young govt. officer killed in bus-car crash

One person was killed in a bus-car collision at Ilukwatta in Kadugannawa yesterday, police said.
The victim was identified as 28-year-old M. Hadun Pathiraja, who was driving the car which was proceeding towards Kandy when the collision with the Colombo-bound bus occurred.

He was an administrative officer in the government service. His injured wife was admitted to the Kandy hospital. A Kadugannawa police officer said the collision took place when the bus was overtaking another vehicle.

Regional stability important for economic growth- Minister Amunugama

Senior Minister Sarath Amunugama has called on South Asian countries to work closely to eradicate terrorism, extremism and separatism as such cooperation was essential for economic advancement of the region.

Addressing the New Delhi ministerial conference of the first South Asian Forum Mr. Amunugama, who led Sri Lanka’s delegation, stressed on the importance of regional stability for economic advancement and integration, adding that the dawn of permanent peace and stability in Sri Lanka saw its GDP growing by over eight percent with economic and commercial activity particularly tourism on the rise.
The objective of the South Asia Forum was to advance economic interests and integration --moving towards a South Asian Economic Union.

The conference on the theme, “25 years of SAARC-achievements and challenges” was chaired by Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission of India, Dr. Montek Singhe Abhuwalia and held from September 7-9.

The key recommendations of the South Asia Forum will be submitted at the 17th SAARC Summit to be held in the Maldivian capital of Male on November 10 and 11. President Mahinda Rajapaksa would be leading the Sri Lankan delegation.

Minister Amunugama also expressed condolences over New Delhi High Court bomb blast that killed 10 people. SAARC’s Former Secretary General and Sri Lanka’s former Foreign Secretary Nihal Rodrigo and Institute of Policy Studies Executive Director Saman Kelegama also addressed the forum.

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