ADVISER to Prime Minister on Commerce, Industry and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood in a tweet on Friday revealed that the European Commission has extended GSP Plus status for Pakistan till 2022 which would allow duty free access of Pakistani goods, especially textiles into 27 member countries of the EU. That indeed is a very positive and encouraging development as the countries of the European Union are the biggest market for our textile and garments and a major sources of foreign exchange earnings. Our textile and garment industries besides earning foreign exchange also provide job opportunities for our ever increasing labour force, especially women. According to reliable sources since the grant of GSP Plus to Pakistan in 2014, our exports to European Union have increased from 4.538 billion Euros in 2013 to 7.492 billion Euros in 2019, registering an increase of 65 percent. The extension in the GSP Plus comes in the wake of the European Commission report on the implementation of 27 international conventions by Pakistan. The report particularly appreciated and expressed satisfaction on the progress made in regards to areas of climate change, forestation under billion tree tsunami project, improved vigilance to combat illicit narcotics and wildlife trade, political and administrative reforms to integrate erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), social protection initiatives like Ehasas Programnme, promotion of Inter-Faith Harmony including opening of Kartarpur Corridor and legislation to ensure the rights of women, children and transgender.
The 3rd Biennial Assessment of GSP was published by the European Commission on February 10, 2020. As per GSP Regulations, the Commission and European External Action Service (EEAS) has to submit a report to the European Parliament and European Council on the performance of GSP Scheme and the status of compliance of GSP beneficiary countries on the 27 international conventions covered under the Regulation. The report was discussed in the International Trade (INTA) Committee of EU Parliament on 19 February 2020 and in the GSP Working Party of the European Council on 26 February 2020. The European Commission and External Action Service recommended at both the forums to continue GSP Scheme and stated their monitoring priorities for the next biennial monitoring cycle. Other countries which also have been given this facility include Armenia, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines and Sri Lanka. The federal government, provincial governments and the concerned ministries and departments under them deserve accolades for making concerted efforts in regards to the implementation of the international conventions essential for claiming the GSP Plus status. In this regard the visionary Ehsas Programme launched by the PTI government under the stewardship of Prime Minister Imran Khan which is purported to eliminate poverty, empowerment of women and loans to youth for starting their own businesses, has received great appreciation by the European Commission.
As they say the credit must be given where it lies. The PTI government has not only taken imaginative and pragmatic initiatives to stem the rot in the economy but has also put in place unprecedented measures to change the fortunes of the less-privileged sections of the society through the multi-dimensional Ehsas initiative. It is pertinent to point out that the status of GSP Plus beneficiary granted to Pakistan by EU has not come only through the implementation of the international conventions but also by intensive lobbying by the Pakistani embassies in the EU countries, Ministry of Commerce and the government of Pakistan at the highest level. The extension in the GSP Plus status has provided yet another opportunity to our business community and industrialists to make their contribution to the much needed enhancement in our export as they are considered to be the biggest propeller of any economy. The concession given by EU would provide necessary props for the efforts of the PTI government to revive the economy, through export-led growth, which forms the pivot of its economic strategy. It is likely to spur economic activity within country besides creating millions of new jobs.
The grant of GSP Plus to Pakistan besides representing success of the well coordinated diplomatic offensive of the government but also indicates the faith of the EU countries in the quality of our textile products. European Union is Pakistan’s key partner in peace and development. The approval of the GSP Plus also reflects the commitment of the European Union to its relations with Pakistan. The country direly needed this preferential treatment as its textile products are still not competitive at the global level. It is like a whiff of fresh air for our strangulated economy. The endorsement by EU of the progress made Pakistan in regards to international conventions also goes a long way in improving the image of the country among the comity of nations. The GSP Plus Scheme was launched by EU in 1971 under which duty free import of goods from developing countries is allowed with the objective to nudge and encourage sustainable development and good governance in them. It is a kind of incentives arrangement for the developing countries. The beneficiaries are included in the programme on the basis of having ratified and implemented 27 UN conventions regarding human rights, good governance and environment. Pakistan has already ratified those conventions and fulfilled other qualifying conditions. However, some key members of EU, including Germany, have been insisting on elimination of death penalty and child labour in Pakistan to support its bid for inclusion in the GSP.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.