ATPs: light at the end of a very long tunnel


Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association (PRGMEA), Zonal Chairman, Atiq A. Kochra, has hailed the efforts of the foreign minister and the prime minister for taking up the issue of early implementation of the Autonomous Trade Preferences (ATP) proposed by the EU Council to help Pakistani economy devastated by floods of 2010 with the EU delegation. Kochra said that with the news that ATPs will be transpiring very soon, the ailing textile industry is seeing a ray of light at the end of tunnel, as it will translate into business opportunities for the industry and job creation for the workers. He added that they were also very hopeful that this would pave the way for the granting of the GSP+ status to Pakistan, and initiation of an FTA with the EU, which will provide the much needed stimulus to the industry, provide employment and generate foreign exchange for the Country, he said. This also means that the EU recognises the efforts of Pakistan in the war against terrorism, he added. He once again stressed on the need for the formulation of a public-private task force, for aggressive monitoring and a follow up of the vital issue, so that there would be no unpleasant surprises at the end.
Kochra said that by seeking trade and not aid, the government was taking steps in the right direction and the efforts of all the related ministries would bring about a positive change in our economy very soon. Besides, the EU offered this one-time facility to Pakistan and approached WTO in October 2010 to seek a waiver on trade preferences to Islamabad on these products amounting to almost 900 million euros in import value, or 27 percent of imports from Pakistan for a two-year period from January 2012 to December 2013.
The EU package materialised following humanitarian appeals from the United Nations. The UN estimates the floods affected some 20 million people and 20 percent of Pakistan’s land area, about 160,000 square km, with 12 million people need urgent assistance. However, countries like India, Brazil, and Bangladesh and textile lobbies within the EU had blocked the implementation of the preferential package originally scheduled to be effective from January 2011. To get the package approved through WTO, a well-placed source in the commerce ministry told Pakistan Today that a revised document after consulting all the member countries was submitted to the WTO secretariat on January 20, 2012. As a result, all opposing countries dropped their objections following the amendments made by the EU in the original documents by introducing tariff rate quotas (TRQs) on 20 products rather than full liberalisation. The EU estimates the preferences would increase Pakistan’s exports by 100 million euros. At the same time, the EU was planning to drop high tariff on ethanol from Pakistan subject to an annual quota of 100,000 tonnes.