KARACHI: The European Union’s imports from Pakistan almost doubled from 3.6 billion in 2008 to 6.8bn in 2018, the European Commission said in its third biennial report on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) released on Monday. The report covers 2018 and 2019 and will be tabled in the European Parliament.
The GSP+ is one of three ‘one way preferential trade schemes’ which grants full duty suspension for essentially the same 66 per cent of tariff lines to eligible countries that are vulnerable in terms of their economic diversification and export volumes. Pakistan is a beneficiary of the GSP+ scheme since January 2014.
The commission, however, noted that Pakistan was making efforts to strengthen the anti-corruption framework and the government must give confidence and autonomy to the National Accountability Bureau, which should follow ‘Accountability for All’ in its actions.
The federal and provincial governments must continue and further strengthen their efforts to ensure the right of trade unions to register and operate, to enhance the functioning of the labour inspection, to improve occupational health and safety of workers, to eradicate bonded labour, and to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, the commission stressed.
Entering GSP+, countries agree to implement effectively 27 international conventions related to human rights, labour rights, environmental protection and good governance.
Pakistan needs to do more to comply with human, labour rights conventions
“Strategic deficiencies in the regime for the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing led to Pakistan’s inclusion in the ‘grey list’ of the FATF, and, the EU list of highrisk third countries. Pakistan has made a high-level political commitment in June 2018 to address these deficiencies by the implementation of an Action Plan, the outcomes of which are yet to be determined,” the report adds.
The EU report noted that the largest garment manufacturer in Lahore, Pakistan, supplies European brands and markets, while ‘the management and board of the factory are in constant dialogue with the EU on a number of voluntary labour and environmental standards to ensure supply chains are in order’.
The commission noted some improvement in child labour but said more needs to be done for labour rights on collective bargain, wage discrimination, and forced and bonded labour in agriculture and mining remain a matter of concern.
“Implementation and enforcement of laws and regulations continues to be a problem, although some provinces have stepped up efforts to improve enforcement. Further efforts are needed to improve the labour inspection system and overall working conditions with enhanced number of labour inspectors in each province,” it added.
In its recommendations, the report calls for carrying out child labour surveys and the inclusion of bonded labour in these surveys, ensuring proper investigations and prosecution of child and forced labour, trafficking and exploitation.
The report hailed Pakistan’s INSPIRED+ project, backed by the EU, which aims for full implementation of labour and human rights conventions under the GSP+ and enhancing the socio-economic rights of women working in agriculture in Punjab.
The project facilitated stakeholder dialogues and advocacy activities on the protection of working women’s rights.
The EU document calls for Pakistan to improve on the regulatory mechanism to implement the conventions pertaining to environment. Calling Pakistan’s performance on human rights ‘mixed’ during the period under review, the report pointed out that the country is making some progress on adopting laws on protecting women’s and children’s rights; eliminating honour killings; protecting transgender persons; protecting the environment; and good governance.
Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2020