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Within a day after Sri Lanka and the EU successfully joined in Colombo for the revival of the sought-after GSP Plus to boost its apparel exports, yet another coveted technical breakthrough has been extended through a surging EU economy. This support stream connects not only to Sri Lanka’s finished apparels but to its manufacturing core itself, opening along with it a new market destination even beyond what the EU termed the next economic supermodel of the world.
“Sweden is highly-innovative in textile and fashion designs and we are also among the top apparel industry technical research and development leaders. We are focusing on extending sector-based support to Lanka products, apparel being one. Boras Textile Fashion Centre is a starting point for Sri Lanka and we can link you to Boras so that the process could start,” said Nesli Almufti, Stockholm based Trade Policy Advisor of Swedish Government’s National Board of Trade-Open Trade Gate, on 25 March in Colombo.
Almufti was addressing Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen during a special meeting at the EDB, which was also attended by Stockholm based Helena Hafgren, Swedish Apparel and Fashion Expert Consultant to National Board of Trade-Open Trade Gate.
“We have a high standing in fashion design and more importantly, we are ranked at top in apparel research and development. We, Swedish Government’s National Board of Trade-Open Trade Gate, work with more than 100 Donor Approved List countries of OECD to encourage their exports into Sweden! In Sweden, we do the work of a country’s Ministry of Trade,” said Almufti.
Almufti added: “We are in Sri Lanka since we were called for support by the Lankan Embassy in Stockholm and we then realised we need to go. Sweden is also the gateway to what is termed the next economic supermodel in the world –it’s the four country premium ‘Nordic market’ of which Norway is not part of but could be accessed through Sweden, also to Iceland. Sweden as well as the Nordic region continues with its strong growth despite the recent EU downturn. This Nordic market is not worried about the costs of your products. The Nordic market with Sweden is highly-developed and there’s growing demand for niche products from abroad in them, the more expensive and upmarket variety.
“One reason we are encouraging imports from countries such as Sri Lanka is that one third of our exports consists of high quality imports coming to Sweden. Today’s value and supply chains are no more centred in one country to one country. Among our global brands are Skype, H&M and Ikea. We believe that Boras Textile Fashion Centre area and its University close to Sweden’s second largest city Gothenburg are famous for apparel R&D including smart textiles, high tech textiles, apparel technical incubators, Museum of Textile History, and the Nordic Textile Library. That’s a starting point for Sri Lanka and we can link you to Boras so that the process could start.”
GDP per capita in Nordic region is higher than Eurozone and lately the Nordic GDP has also been growing faster than the Eurozone’s. Sweden, with its $ 500+ b of GDP, is the seventh largest economy in EU. According to the European Commission, Swedish GDP will be the fastest growing in 2015 at 3.3% within ‘Nordic region’ (European Commission also has the GSP Plus decision making authority on Sri Lanka). Sri Lanka and the EU commenced work on the recovery of the GSP Plus from EU on 24 March in Colombo with the arrival of a high level GSP Taskforce directly from Brussels.
“I am so pleased about the technical support from a highly-developed economy to our apparels, which is also timely since our prospects to recover GSP Plus and boost apparel exports are brighter after we started work with the visiting EU GSP Taskforce yesterday,” said Bathiudeen.
He added: “Apparels are Sri Lanka’s topmost merchandise exports earner and we are almost ready to achieve the $ 5 billion export milestone in it. Our apparel exports in 2014 were at $ 4.9 billion, increasing by 9.2% from 2013. We believe the GSP Plus door may open for us. Sri Lankan apparel sector’s manufacturing now at G4 levels with even the large global fashion brand portfolio owners such as PVH Corporation directly partnering with us on their speed orders. Our Industry Completing Cycle is a short four to five days up-to shipping, and we can readily supply premium apparels to Sweden and Nordic region as a result. Close to one third of our exports to Sweden are apparels.”
According to the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka, in 2014, Sri Lanka’s total trade with Sweden stood at $ 125 m, of which $71.05 m were exports, of which 31% were apparels. Sri Lanka’s biggest imports from Sweden were cellular and wireless products in 2014.