LAHORE: The European Union (EU) sees the next three months as crucial for extending the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status to Pakistan for 2024.

“The time till October is crucial for Pakistan to show tangible results as a draft report for GSP+ status will be prepared in that month,” Head of EU delegation Guido Dolara said while speaking to the business community’s representatives at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) on Friday.

Mr Dolara was of the view that since Pakistan was a major beneficiary of GSP+, it still needs to work in various areas where the available potential is still untapped.

“As the LCCI can play an important part in helping the SME sector to realise the potential of GSP+, we are close to finalising the monetary report that will be ready in October,” he said.

The GSP is an entrenched trade and development policy instrument in place since 1971. Pakistan is the major recipient of the GSP+ scheme for the last seven years. Under this status – set to expire on Dec 31, 2023 – there is zero duty on several products. Under the current GSP+ system, the EU continues monitoring the progress made by the beneficiary countries towards the implementation of 27 international conventions. Since the beneficiary countries will have to re-apply for the scheme’s extension, their record of compliance is given due consideration.

Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Mian Nauman Kabir said the GSP+ status holds paramount importance for Pakistan’s economy as it has played an important role in the expansion of bilateral trade.

Later, the EU Mission held a meeting with the representatives of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) and discussed the developments and progress made on the implementation of 27 International Conventions concerning GSP+.

The delegation members said that the EU had added six new conventions along with assessing the situation of human rights, press freedom, gender equality and child labour-related issues last year while extending the GSP+ status for Pakistan.

They further informed Aptma members that the newly-proposed scheme aims to improve key features of the scheme to better respond to the evolving needs and challenges of GSP countries, as well as, reinforce the scheme’s social, labour, environmental and climate dimensions.

Aptma chairman Abdul Rahim Nasir said since the grant of GSP+ status, Pakistan’s textile and clothing exports to the European Union have increased by 63 per cent while the overall exports have increased by 45pc. Therefore, any withdrawal of GSP+, according to them, would create massive unemployment, large-scale closure of mills and an increase in poverty with a dominos effect on the banking sector as more than 40pc of bank loans are obtained by the textile sector. Real estate, goods transport and allied industries will also suffer adversely causing massive unrest, he added.

The EU Monitoring Mission also reviewed the steps taken by the Punjab government in nine priority areas, including human rights, child labour, labour rights and environment protection. During a meeting at the Civil Secretariat, Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal briefed the mission about the initiatives taken by the provincial government in the priority areas. He said Pakistan attaches great importance to its partnership with the EU.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2022

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