ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has reaffirmed its pledge to fully implement 27 international conventions as part of its commitment to the European Union’s preferential trade arrangement, the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+).
The commitment was conveyed twice this week — first at the meeting of Pakistan-European Union Joint Commission held on Wednesday, but whose joint declaration was issued two days later, and during a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey on Friday.
The Foreign Office in a statement on Mr Qureshi’s meeting with Mr Borrell said the foreign minister “reiterated Pakistan’s firm commitment towards the GSP Plus preferential trade regime and effective implementation of the twenty-seven related international conventions”.
Moreover, the joint statement on the Pak-EU Joint Commission meeting said: “The EU and Pakistan agreed to enhance bilateral trade, including by addressing issues that are hampering trade and investment, improving the business climate, and Pakistan’s efforts towards full implementation of the 27 international conventions stipulated under the EU’s unilateral trade preferences scheme, the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+).”
Assurance conveyed to EU during Qureshi’s meeting with Borrell in Turkey
“Pakistan acknowledged the extension of its GSP+ status as a mutually rewarding step and affirmed its full commitment to fulfil its obligations under the GSP+,” it added.
The GSP+ is a special trading arrangement that provides developing countries preferential access to the European markets by slashing tariffs to zero on most of the products. The countries benefiting from the scheme have to implement 27 international conventions related to human rights, labour rights, protection of the environment and good governance.
The EU describes it as a “special incentive arrangement” for sustainable development and good governance.
Mr Qureshi said the GSP+ had played an important role in the growth of trade between the two sides.
The EU is Pakistan’s second most important trading partner. Pakistan’s exports to EU were about 5.5 billion euros in 2020, which accounted for 28 per cent of the country’s total exports.
Pakistan, which has ratified all 27 conventions, has been benefiting from the GSP+ status since January 2014. Its GSP+ status was extended for another two years in March 2020.
Pakistan’s progress on the implementation of the 27 conventions has been mixed. Despite introduction of domestic legislation for the implementation of these conventions, various quarters have been raising questions over their implementation.
The EU has on number of occasions raised concerns about the overall situation of press freedom, the situation of civil society organisations and human rights defenders, gender equality, minority rights, and the death penalty.
Read: EU Parliament move to review trade ties with Pakistan
“Pakistan informed about developments concerning the Journalist Protection Bill, the Forced or Involuntary Disappearance Bill and the Anti-Torture Law,” the joint declaration said.
The EU raised concerns regarding the death penalty and the abuse of blasphemy laws, it added.
APP adds: Mr Qureshi and Mr Borrell discussed the entire spectrum of Pakistan-EU relations as well as global and regional situation, including the Afghan peace process and Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The two also exchanged views on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Appreciating the EU’s support, the foreign minister delineated the steps taken by Pakistan to effectively tackle the situation.
Mr Qureshi also briefed Mr Borrell on Pakistan’s progress towards the comprehensive implementation of the Financial Action Task Force action plan and sought the EU’s support in the review process.
He emphasized that at a time of rising Islamophobia, racism and populism, the international community must show a common resolve against xenophobia, intolerance and incitement to violence on the basis of religion or belief.
In the regional context, the foreign minister briefed on Pakistan’s contributions to the Afghan peace process, and stressed that the conflict could only be settled through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process.
Both sides urged all the Afghan factions to seize the historic opportunity presented by the peace process to settle the conflict through political means.
Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2021