EU plans trade as well as aid for tsunami-hit countries
The EU announced on Tuesday (11 January) that it was considering changes in its trade policy to help countries ravaged by the tsunami.
In a statement, the European Commission said it was planning to speed up implementation of its so-called "Generalised Preference System" (GPS).
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This system allows third-world countries to benefit from better trade terms with the EU, by providing preferential access to imports from developing countries.
The countries to benefit most would be Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and Indonesia, the Commission said.
"Under the new system Sri Lanka for example, will receive duty free access to the EU for almost all its GSP exports including on its vital textile and clothing exports. India, Indonesia and Thailand will benefit from reduced duties and wider product coverage, especially on crucial seafood exports", the statement read.
The system was due to be implemented in the middle of this year, but the Commission is set to "fast-track" it.
Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said, "there are trade measures we can use to assist rebuilding in the countries affected by the disaster, notably by speeding up measures to improve their access to our markets".
The EU has already set aside 450 million euro in aid to stricken countries and Commission President José Manuel Durao Barroso pledged on Tuesday that this aid would be delivered on time.
The tsunami, which struck on 26 December, claimed the lives of over 150,000 people and wrought havoc in several countries in Asia.
And the disaster has also hit some key export industries especially hard. According to news reports, the tsunami caused over 500 million dollars worth of damage to Thai shrimp farms.