ISLAMABAD: A monitoring mission of the European Union’s (EU) Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday to assess the effective implementation of 27 international conventions, a press release issued by the EU mission in Islamabad said.

Pakistan joined the GSP+ scheme in 2014, which gave the country’s products duty-free access to the European market.

Implementing the conditions is a prerequisite to getting eligibility to export goods to EU markets at zero duties for 66 per cent of tariff lines.

The conventions relate to human and labour rights, environmental protection, climate change and good governance.

The EU monitoring mission, comprising officials from the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the European Commi­ssion’s Directorates-General for Trade and for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, will make an assessment of the effective implementation of 27 international conventions that Pakistan is a signatory to. During its stay in Islamabad, the mission will hold meetings with the government, the United Nations country team, Inter­national Labour Organisation, business and civil society representatives and other stakeholders.

GSP+ provides wide-ranging tariff preferences for imports to the EU from vulnerable developing countries to support poverty eradication, sustainable development and their participation in the global economy as well as reinforce good governance.

The scheme has helped Pakistani businesses increase their exports to EU markets by 65 per cent since the country joined the scheme in 2014. The European Single Market, with over 440 million consumers, is Pakistan’s most important destination. Pakistan’s exports worth 5.4 billion euros (Rs1.2 trillion) mainly comprise garments, bed linen, terry towels, hosiery, leather, sports and surgical goods.

As underlined by High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell Fontelles, “The GSP+ scheme is all about the EU’s and Pakistan’s joint commitment to sustainable development.”

The press release further mentioned a statement by the executive vice president and commissioner for trade in the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, in 2021.

“For five decades, the EU GSP has supported vulnerable countries to grow in a sustainable manner by giving them preferential access to the EU market,” Mr Dombrovskis said. “This has helped beneficiary countries to diversify their economies and create jobs. It has also galvanised beneficiary countries into improving human and labour rights, the environment and good governance.”

The EU regularly sends monitoring missions to assess the situation on the ground and subsequently reflect its evaluation in the publicly available report to the European Parliament and to the EU member states in the council. So far, three biennial reviews have been concluded — in 2016, 2018 and 2020.

Apart from Pakistan, the EU currently unilaterally grants GSP+ tariff concessions to Bolivia, Cabo Verde, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2022

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