Pakistan yet to apply for GSP Plus, says EU envoy | Pakistan Today

Pakistan yet to apply for GSP Plus, says EU envoy

The ball is in Pakistan’s court to effectively negotiate with the European Union (EU) to obtain GSP-Plus status in 2014, said Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, EU’s ambassador to Pakistan.
He stated this during a visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) here Saturday.
From 1st January 2014 the EU’s new Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) regime would come into force which would be valid for seven to eight years from 2014, said the envoy. “Pakistan has yet not applied for GSP Plus,” he added.
New regulations had been adopted to accommodate countries such as Pakistan. The EU treated its trade partners equally.
For attainment it is imperative that Islamabad should establish special group to timely negotiate as the EU Commission in Brussels would take at least six-month time to evaluate the application.
Pakistan is already benefiting from the existing GSP, but it was aspiring to obtain GSP-plus status under this new regime.
The ambassador said if Pakistan qualified for GSP plus, which involves Pakistan’s record of implementation of 27 international conventions it has already signed and ratified related to human rights, labour rights, environment, governance etc., it would be able to export most of its products to the EU duty- and quota-free. “We have expectations and hope that Pakistan may qualify for GSP Plus in EU,” he said. The ambassador apprised that the EU was the largest trading partner of Pakistan with an annual trade volume of over 8 billion euro.
Pakistan, he said, was an attractive market for EU for trade and investment. “The Pakistani diaspora in EU is also strong. EU maintains single trade, goods, services and currency,” he said.
He said on 23 January last year the EU Foreign Affairs Council, consisting of the foreign ministers of all 27 member states in the EU and chaired by the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, approved a joint EU-Pakistan 5-year Engagement Plan, including cooperation in a wide range of areas from trade to foreign and security policy. In June 2012, Cathy Ashton visited Pakistan and launched a Strategic Dialogue with her counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
On 15 November, the EU Autonomous Trade Preferences (ATPs) for Pakistan came into force as a response to the devastating floods that hit Pakistan in 2010 and 2011. As a result of these special ATPs, certain goods from Pakistan can enter the EU duty free or would be subject to specific ceilings (tariff rate quotas).
The measures would remain effective until December 31, 2013, he said. The dialogue besides economic and trade also envisaged common forums and security policy. He was of the view that Pakistani Embassies in EU member countries should take cognizance to ask the private sector to enhance trade with Pakistan. The EU is spending 15 million euro on a unique trade diversification program to help support Pakistani companies gain access to EU markets.
The EU ambassador said Pakistan was a resilient nation with tremendous potential, talented people and vibrant businesspersons. He encouraged the business community of Pakistan to meet the EU criteria. For seafood export to EU, he said with compliance of EU’s fish processing standards, it would become possible to resume seafood exports. On a question about regional trade integration, the EU envoy said Pakistan may enterprise to become largest regional trading partner as well. Pakistan should increase regional trade particularly with Indian, Afghanistan and SAARC countries.
He personally believed that Indo-Pak MFN process would continue, concerns are addressed and free trade should be beneficial for both sides. Commenting on the idea of a transatlantic trade and investment partnership between USA and EU, he said, it would be world’s largest trade relationship and would not be detrimental to the trade and investment with developing nations of the world. Replying to a question, he said EU Delegation to Pakistan can discuss opening of its offices in Karachi and other cities for issuance of Schengen visa, however, he aspired that it would take time.
Earlier, Chairman Businessmen Group and former President KCCI Siraj Qasim Teli said it was heartening to note that EU countries leaders were supportive of the proposal to accommodate Pakistan in the new GSP-Plus initiative from 2014 onwards. On Indo-Pak Trade he said politics should not hamper the process of trade liberalization. The business community of Pakistan is resilient against all crises, he said. KCCI President Muhammad Haroon Agar said Pakistan sought fair access to EU market and to get GSP-Plus status.