GSP as a ‘bait’, Pompeo in Sri Lanka to push the (SOFA) military deal

By Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune Political Note

Washington – quite obviously to fulfill one of its foreign policy objectives in the Indo-Pacific Region – is sending a high-level delegation next week to Sri Lanka to discuss the ‘continuation’ of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) with the government when the Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is scheduled to visit Colombo in the following week on June 27 at a time Sri Lanka has expressed some skepticism of several (highly questionable) terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) the US wants Sri Lanka to accept.

This is a typical Washington strategy holding the current lucrative American market for Sri Lanka’s exports under the March-2018 renewed GSP which is expected to lapse in December 2020 as a bait to bring pressure to agree to the conditions laid out in the Colombo US Embassy classified Diplomatic Note to Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) which the Asian Tribune got hold of.

The leaked ‘classified’ Diplomatic Note to the MFA dated 28 August 2018 to which the Asian Tribune had the opportunity of accessing was used in our report titled ‘US troops in Sri Lanka: Classified US Dip Note reveals’ – – in which we commented (Quote) Following the discussions between the representatives of the United States Government and the Foreign Ministry of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Embassy of the United States of America in Sri Lanka in a ‘Confidential’ note addressing the Foreign Ministry dated 28 August 2018 recalls the agreement between the two governments, and reiterates the mutually-agreed upon clauses that are incorporated in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which Asian Tribune construed as inimical to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.

The ‘Asian Tribune’ is in a position to disclose what Washington endeavors to achieve at the expense of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty providing a reading of this ‘classified’ document it has possessed through its investigative endeavor, the total repulsive nature of the ‘contents’ of the SOFA now under discussion between the two governments. (End Quote)

April 18, 2019.Washington designed to hold the GSP Talks as a prerequisite to induce Sri Lanka to agree to the conditions proposed by Washington to finalize the SOFA agreement which is well connected to the June-2017 renewed Acquisition and Cross-Services Agreement (ACSA) which facilitates the United States to station American military, its advisors and operators on Sri Lankan soil. The renewed ACSA which runs into 83 pages is still kept a secret by both Sri Lanka and the United States rushing through a GSL cabinet meeting, not tabled in Sri Lanka’s legislature.

A similar tactic was used by Washington in mid-1980s when trade talks were in progress regarding the ‘Textile Quota’ to the American market when representatives from the US Trade Representative Office used the issues of human rights and the importation of movies pressurizing Sri Lanka to award a fair share of imports to two major Sri Lankan cinema companies as a prerequisite to increase the textile quotas. It worked as witnessed by this writer who was then a state department employee at Colombo’s diplomatic mission as a political specialist who attended the talks as an observer.

Both Colombo and Washington are well aware that 27 percent of exports from Sri Lanka arrive in the American market, and that Sri Lanka heavily depends on this market. Sri Lankan exports indicate that nearly 57% is exported to EU and USA. It shows 27% of exports are shared by USA and the majority 30% is shared by EU. Nevertheless, out of this 27 percent approximately 70 to 75 percent are textiles/garments which are out of the quota system as it enters the American market as normal exports.

3,451 different products from Sri Lanka are eligible to enter the United States duty-free under the GSP program. US has been the leading buyer of Lankan exports over the years and it continued its lead even last year. Sri Lankan exports to United States is now almost at 3 billion US dollars threshold for the first time.

In the heat of the GSP trade talks between Sri Lanka and the United States the following week – on June 27 – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive in Colombo, as the spokesperson of the state department put it “Secretary Pompeo will express America’s solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka as they stand united against the despicable Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. He will also discuss promising opportunities for US-Sri Lanka cooperation based on shared commitments to a free and open Indo-Pacific region”, and added, during the visit to Indo-Pacific region on June 24 through June 30, to “broaden and deepen America’s partnership with key countries to advance their shared goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The catch phrase is “He will also discuss promising opportunities for US-Sri Lanka cooperation based on shared commitments to a free and open Indo-Pacific region” in which the proposed clauses of the Diplomatic Note that Washington is serious about will form the discussions Secretary Pompeo will have with top GSL political authority.

The ACSA and SOFA are vital components of Washington’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region” policy. The US has signed these two agreements with nations along the Indo-Pacific region. The United States, during the past eighteen months, has enhanced its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Washington has recognized Sri Lanka’s location in the region as a geo-strategically vital for its operation in the Indo-Pacific to confront China’s economic-military expansion.

The Islamist terrorist attack on three Catholic churches in Colombo and a protestant church in the eastern city of Batticaloa, and three Five Star hotels in Colombo that took the lives of 250 persons seem to have been a concern for Washington on eve of Secretary Pompeo’s visit to the Asian region.

With Sri Lanka at the center of Washington’s Indo-Pacific Region Military Policy as a strategically located nation, Pompeo made reference to Sri Lanka in his interview with America’s premier TV network CBS on April 24 highlighting ISIS penetration in the region and how Washington looks at the developed scenario following Islamist terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on April 21.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wants everyone to understand that the bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday provide a justification for the war on terror which has become a permanent and dominant feature of US foreign policy. His tone in the CBS interview sounded almost thankful for the atrocity when, in its immediate aftermath, he proclaimed that the “vile attacks are a stark reminder of why the United States remains resolved in our fight to defeat terrorism.”

Columnist Peter Isackson of the widely-read media outlet Fair Observer says: “This challenge of taking down these networks is something the United States is going to have to continue to stay right on top of.” By “stay on top of” he means “follow through” or possibly “remain in control,” but the expression also conveys the idea that the US sits above everyone else and manages their affairs.

Secretary Pompeo told CBS “Yeah, almost certainly the case that they show no sign of ideologically having waivered from their desire to conduct attacks on the West. And that means we’re going to have to be vigilant for an awfully long time.”

Commenting on the above pronouncement Peter Isackson opines: The US needs a reason to be seen as indispensable in its actions across the globe. The “desire to conduct attacks on the West” ensures that indispensable status. Some might find it peculiar to hear Sri Lanka referred to as “the West”? For Pompeo, nothing could be more natural. Sri Lanka is a province of the empire, just like neighboring India, a nation with four times the population of the United States that has now learned it no longer has the freedom to purchase oil from the most convenient and trusted supplier.

Washington’s desire for the sustainability of its military build-up in the Indo-Pacific Region and Sri Lanka’s strategic location right at the center of the Region, the vitality of the 83-page US-SL signed ACSA which will put American boots on Sri Lankan soil along with US Department of Defense officials and the importance of Colombo agreeing to the proposed clauses forwarded to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs through a Diplomatic Note dated 28 August 2018 that could form the SOFA will be talking points during Secretary Mike Pompeo’s discourse with Sri Lankan political authority. Of course, Pompeo is aware that an ISIS penetration in Sri Lanka and the surrounding area could be an hindrance to America’s military design in the Indo-Pacific region.

The hint for the above talking points and Washington’s projections came from the state department spokesperson, while announcing Secretary Pompeo’s visit to the Asian region, when she said “He will also discuss promising opportunities for US-Sri Lanka cooperation based on shared commitments to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

The GSP-PLUS talks next week is a ‘dress rehearsal’ to Secretary Pompeo’s ‘real display’ on June 27 in Colombo.

The United States diplomatic mission in Colombo is well aware of Mr. Pompeo’s ‘real display’ and the GSL-‘response’ to that ‘display’ while suspicious if a future government would fall in line to fulfill Washington’s designs in the Indo-Pacific region when a senior official of the American Embassy, who wished to remain anonymous, told a group of selected journalists in Colombo that the US expected future Sri Lankan governments to respect the international obligations taken on by the current UNP-led administration, and that the last three years had seen an expansion in US-Sri Lanka relations and whether that change would continue under a new government was yet to be decided.

– Asian Tribune –

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