In its bid to help the country’s apparel exporters widen their export markets, the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association (SLAEA) has urged the Government to explore the possibility of signing more trade agreements especially with countries such as Japan, Russia, Korea, Brazil and South Africa. Such agreements will help the apparel industry to broaden its export base and bring in valuable foreign exchange, industry officials feel. After GSP+ is restored, the industry has made a commitment to the Government to increase exports to the EU by US$ 500 million annually.
Said the new Chairman of SLAEA, Felix A. Fernando, Sri Lanka’s position is that the restoration will give some room to breathe and consolidate the industry. The GSP+ benefit Sri Lanka will enjoy for the next three or four years can be used to accomplish many other medium and long term goals which will not only be beneficial to the apparel industry but boost all the exports from our country. Sri Lanka should seriously consider negotiating a trade agreement with the EU, as the GSP+ can beenjoyed for a maximum of 4-5 years at most.
Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Association, Fernando said that it was the need of everyone to find and diversify into new markets for exports. Considering the reputation Sri Lanka has for its quality and Sri Lanka’s inability to compete on the low-end value products which are made in neighbouring South Asian countries, the country must increase the production of higher value-added products, such as formal wear and high-end outerwear.