ISLAMABAD: As the European Union’s 10-year preferential trade arrangement approaches its expiration this year, Pakistan has intensified its efforts to enhance compliance with key international conventions that encompass a wide spectrum of human rights, labour standards, and environmental protections.
The EU monitoring team had already visited Pakistan and compiled the last assessment report on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) for 2014-2023, which was expected to be made public in the current month or in July.
The report will elaborate on Pakistan’s performance in terms of human rights, labour standards, press freedom and environmental protection, which are linked with the availing of GSP+ preferences. The report will also become a basis for the renewal of GSP+ status for Pakistan.
The current scheme, launched in 2014 for 13 countries including Pakistan, will expire in 2023. The EU Council and parliament will also finalise new GSP terms, which will spell out details for compliance and implementation.
Week-long consultations to begin next week
For making Pakistan’s case for the next GSP, the Parliamentarian’s Commission for Human Rights (PCHR) and Justice Project Pakistan would hold a consultation session in Islamabad from June 5-8 to assess recent developments, highlight progress, and frame strategic recommendations for continued reform.
These high-level consultations will foster discussion on human rights priorities defined in the last GSP+ report while shedding light on problematic areas where concrete reform is needed.
Key stakeholders from the federal and provincial governments, parliamentarians, senior members of the judiciary, diplomatic missions, and prominent members of civil society will be part of the consultations. These discussions will be live-streamed for the European Parliament, representatives from the European Council of member states and the European Commission’s GSP+ team in Brussels.
The GSP+ status allows Pakistan to export more than 78pc of its products to the EU, which is the second most important trading partner accounting for 14.3pc of the total exports in 2020 and 28pc in 2021.
Since acceding to the GSP+ scheme, the trade between the EU and Pakistan increased from €6.9 billion in 2013 to €12.2bn in 2021.
However, the recipient countries of the preferential scheme commit to three key measures: the ratification and implementation of 27 international conventions covering a broad range of human rights, labour standards and environmental protections, fulfilment of UN Treaty Body reporting obligations, and cooperation with the European Commission’s monitoring framework.
The 2018-2019, GSP+ Assessment Report submitted to the European Parliament and Council notes Pakistan’s commitment towards meeting its obligations but identifies certain challenges to the implementation of the UN Treaty Body Obligations such as devolved provincial powers, limited institutional coordination, lack of institutional capacity, scarce human and financial resources, and overriding security concerns.
Consequently, the report states that “Pakistan must demonstrate that it will concretely increase its efforts and take more proactive and sustained actions to implement legislation and to address problematic areas,” according to the assessment report.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2023