ISLAMABAD: The Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) scheme has passed smoothly through European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (CIT), enabling Pakistani exporters to enjoy preferential duties on exports for the next two years.
The continuation of the scheme is an award for Islamabad’s progress in enacting new laws and developing new institutions for implantation of 27 core conventions of GSP+, specially the National Action Plan for human rights.
Speaking to Dawn on Tuesday, EU Ambassador Jean-François Cautain confirmed these developments.
“The steps being taken are part of the ongoing GSP+ monitoring process during which the European Commission can decide to launch an investigation if there are significant shortcomings in respect of the implementation of international conventions relevant under the scheme,” the ambassador added.
As part of the process of renewing the facility, a presentation will also be made to the European Council on Feb 21, which is a mere formality according to a source in the commerce ministry. The council is a technocratic committee of the European Union.
Pakistan’s first Biennial Assessment Report of GSP+ was conducted in 2016.
The second Biennial Assessment Report of GSP+ was done in Brussels on Tuesday. Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha led Pakistan’s delegation.
A statement issued by the commerce ministry said that the EU parliament expressed satisfaction on the progress achieved by Pakistan in enacting new laws and hoped that Islamabad would continue to engage with the EU and ensure to bridge implementation gaps during the next two years of reporting on GSP+.
The CIT also agreed to deliberate upon possibility of up-scaling the relationship with Pakistan from a beneficiary of GSP+ scheme to a free trade agreement (FTA) partner in future.
A similar offer of an FTA has been made to India, Pakistan’s main competitor in the EU market.
The European Commission will send a report to Islamabad in March identifying gaps in the implementation of the conventions. Pakistan will respond to these observations by June. It will be followed by a delegation from the European Commission in second half of the current calendar year.
All these are part of the process of monitoring of compliance of GSP+ for next biennial assessment report for 2018-2019.
Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha is in Brussels to follow developments with regard to ongoing deliberations by the EU Parliament and to undertake necessary engagements with policy makers in European Parliament, European External Action Service and European Commission.
He attended a meeting of the EU committee on international trade. The details of the meeting were released in Islamabad by the ministry of commerce.
During the discussions, the EU committee noted the positive economic impact of the GSP+ scheme on the beneficiary countries and it has been useful in encouraging countries to undertake necessary steps for promoting principles of good governance and sustainable development.
European Commission and the European External Action Service had prepared a Joint Staff Document evaluating steps taken by the beneficiary countries to comply with UN Conventions pertaining to human rights, labour rights, narcotics control and corruption.
The section pertaining to Pakistan appreciated legislative and institutional measures undertaken to improve the human rights regime in the country. It specifically appreciated establishment of National Human Rights Commission and National Action Plan for Human Rights among other measures.
During the session it was announced that GSP+ monitoring missions shall undertake visits to Pakistan, the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan and Bolivia in the second half of 2018 to interact with stakeholders engaged in implementation of mandatory conventions for GSP+.
Pakistan is one of the 10 beneficiaries of EU’s GSP+ Scheme. As a result of duty-free access available to Pakistan in 27 member states Pakistan’s exports to the EU have increased from 4.54bn euros in 2013 to 6.29bn euros in 2016.
The duty-free access has been crucial for Pakistani products to maintain their edge in the EU market vis-à-vis similar products originating from India, Turkey, Vietnam and China.
The GSP scheme is also beneficial for EU countries as data shows that imports from EU countries surged to 5.3bn euro in 2016 from 3.84bn euro in 2013.
Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2018