ISLAMABAD, March 6: Pakistan is steadily losing market for its products in the 27-member European Union (EU) — one of the single largest trading partners, despite Islamabad's frontline role in war on terror.

While European countries imports from other countries of the region witnessed more than double digit growth during the last few years, Pakistan’s trade with the bloc has not been keeping pace with the country’s international trade growth.

Official statistics compiled by commerce ministry indicated that the EU’s share in Pakistani global exports declined from 28 per cent to 26 per cent per annum, as exports to European countries came down to $3.83 billion in the fiscal year 2005 from $4.20 billion in the year 2004.

The overall exports during 2005 declined by 9 per cent, while exports of textile and clothing declined by 15 per cent; despite the fact that the EU’s import of these items increased by 7 per cent. This is, obviously having an adverse impact on Pakistan's industrial growth, economic stability, employment generation and social security.

The EC is Pakistan's single largest trading partner accounting for 26 per cent of the total exports and 17 per cent of the total imports. However, exporters attributed this fall in exports to EU to what they claimed as "discriminatory and unstable trade policies" being adopted by the EU.

Pakistan's Ambassador to WTO Dr Manzoor Ahmad in the country's statement issued on the EU trade policy pointed out that there was a common perception in Pakistan that the EC trade policy has recently undergone a clear shift in treating similarly placed countries differently.

"In addition to tariff peaks on products of our export interest, our competitive exports are repeatedly subjected to anti-dumping duties. Except for short periods, our bed-linen exports have been subjected to anti-dumping investigation or anti-dumping duties for the last 14 years. Perhaps this is a record period for an anti-dumping duty," the envoy said.

Mr Manzoor further pointed out that when Pakistani exporters found a niche and started exporting value-added ethanol, instead of the raw material molasses, which they had been doing for a long time, they found themselves faced with several hurdles.

"Not only the duty concession was withdrawn but they were also subjected to anti-dumping investigations. After one year of investigations, the EU dropped its claim. However, in the meantime most of our newly established distilleries got shot down. As a result our exporters are back to export of raw material for the EU distilleries," the ambassador pointed out.

Mr Manzoor said stringent and frequently changing regulations on technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures are also among the main factors hampering trade with the EC member states. "Our products like fish, fruits and vegetables are the hardest hit in this regard," he said.

He further said that Pakistani business community was finding it increasingly hard to get visas for business trips. The new entrepreneurs making exploratory and matchmaking deals are routinely refused visa for not having travelled to Europe before.

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