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UK must support Lanka's case for trade benefits - Veteran British Parliamentarian

The United Kingdom, because of its special historical and cultural ties with Sri Lanka, has a duty to explain Sri Lanka's point of view to the leadership of the European Commission in Brussels and to work towards a sympathetic reception for Sri Lanka's case, Sir Nicholas Winterton, one of the longest sitting members of the British House of Commons, told Export Development and International Trade, Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris at their meeting in the British Parliament.

Export Development and International Trade Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris met Sir Stuart Rose, Executive Chairman of Marks & Spencer, one of the largest buyers of Sri Lanka’s apparel products in London. Here (from left: - Head of Government Affairs, Marks & Spencer Tony Ginty, High Commissioner Nihal Jayasinghe, Sir Stuart Rose, Scott Fyfe, Director of Sourcing, Marks and Spencer.

Prof. Peiris, addressing a group of Parliamentarians representing the major political parties in the British Parliament, said that Sri Lanka's priority, as it puts the scourge of terrorism behind it, is not aid but access to the markets of the United Kingdom and the Europian Continent. Market access on preferential terms is the most effective way of facilitating the country's rapid economic development, the Minister said.

Lord Rogan of Lower Iveagh, who has taken an active interest in recent developments in Sri Lanka, expressed agreement with Minister Peiris that any attempt to penalise Sri Lanka in respect of trade matters would be entirely counterproductive at this time.

Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka, Andrew Love said there was absolutely no evidence to support the irresponsible allegations made in some quarters about the commission of war crimes. These must be firmly rejected, he said. Lord Naseby emphasised the need for countries in Western Europe to put aside their judgemental postures and to become partners with Sri Lanka in making use of the abundant economic opportunities now available with the defeat of terrorism in the country.

At a meeting with Sir Stuart Rose, Executive Chairman of Marks & Spencer, which was attended by Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in the United Kingdom Nihal Jayasinghe Sir Stuart told Prof. Peiris that Marks & Spencer, as one of the largest buyers of Sri Lankan apparel products, has every reason for total satisfaction with the quality of Sri Lankan products, delivery on time, the ethical standards maintained in garment factories and compliance with the most exacting environmental standards.

Sir Stuart said that his company is strongly in favour of the retention of trade benefits enjoyed by Sri Lanka, since this will enable the British market to benefit from a supply line which had proved satisfactory in every respect.

Lord Mervyn Davies of Abersoch, Britain's Minister of State for Trade and Investment, at a formal meeting in his Ministry, told Prof. Peiris that he considered the present time appropriate for a group of business leaders from the United Kingdom to visit Sri Lanka to examine at first hand, the opportunities now available in the country for trade and investment.

Minister Peiris visited Fortnum and Mason, the famous London store, for discussions, with their senior management on sourcing goods from Sri Lanka for display and sale.


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