ISLAMABAD: The government has established a Treaty Implementation Cell (TIC) in the commerce ministry to ensure compliance with specified international conventions under European Union’s low-tariff scheme GSP+, Federal Minister Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development Syed Sadaruddin Shah Rashidi said on Monday.

Representatives from four provinces, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan were represented in the TIC, which would report on the progress made on promulgation of laws on women, children, labour and minorities’ rights.

The minister made these remarks at the launch of the first-ever Buyers’ Forum for the country’s textile and garment sector. The forum is convened by the government and supported by the ILO, UN’s labour organisation, and the International Finance Corporation.

The theme of the forum is to promote decent work for a sustainable textile and garment industry in Pakistan.

The event brought together a number of buyers and brands including GAP, Wal-Mart, Target, H&M, Adidas, Levi Strauss, Inditex, Primark, Li & Fung, El Corte Ingles, PVH, Hema, and C&A, who expressed their commitment to sustainable practices, improving compliance and reporting on environmental, labour and health and safety standards and their implementation in the textile and garment sector in Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador of the Netherlands Marcel De Vink said that his country supported the grant of GSP+ for Pakistan. “The Netherlands is a free-trade nation. But free trade is not free. It needs to be in compliance with labour standards, human rights and environmental standards. Labour conditions are very important to consumers and companies in Europe.”

The envoy said the joint action plan project started by the Sindh government regarding labour compliance will be replicated in other provinces.

The Netherlands was pleased to see the Pakistani government and the textile industry embrace a vision to further fulfil these conditions, he added. “The labour inspectorate has a key role to play in the implementation of the labour standards. The Netherlands is in discussion with ILO regarding financial support to a major project to improve labour conditions in Pakistan.”

Stefano Gatto, chargé d’affaires of the European Union, said: “Decent work and adherence to international labour rights and standards are of key importance in a modern economy and it is a high priority area for the European Union, both in our internal policies and in our cooperation with the rest of the world.

“We hope establishment of a Buyers’ Forum in Pakistan can foster a strong partnership between the government, the private sector and the international community, which can help create tangible improvements in this area.”

Country Director ILO Office for Pakistan Francesco d’Ovidio has appreciated the reporting on the eight labour laws. However, he pointed out areas like data compilation, law and procedures and capacity issues which need further focus of the government. Secretary General of Pakistan Textile Exporters Association Azizullah Goheer also hoped the forum would help improve compliance with labour standards.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2014

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