Pakistan’s exports to the European Union (EU) witnessed a 20 percent increase during the first 11 months (January, 2014 to November, 2014) of the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) Plus status, said Democracy Reporting International (DRI)’s Zulfikar Shah while addressing a multi-stakeholders conference titled “GSP Plus in Pakistan: Towards a coordinated implementation strategy” in Lahore on Tuesday.
Addressing the participants of meeting aimed at generating awareness about the GSP Plus scheme and to discuss strategies for promoting human rights in the context, Shah said that the exports rose to Euros 5.067 billion against last year’s Euros 4.22 billion. He added that the GSP Plus mechanism was an incentive for Pakistan to enhance democratic and human rights reforms in the country.
“The GSP Plus status is conditional to meeting Pakistan’s international obligations under the 27 conventions related to human rights, labour rights, environment protection and good governance which Pakistan has ratified,” Shah said, adding that the status was initially given for 10 years and was reviewed after every two years for evaluating if Pakistan was implementing the conventions it has ratified.
“The key challenge is that we have to comply with the 27 conventions which we had ratified and submit the report in the European Parliament in January 2016.”
Shah said that the GSP Plus status has allowed Pakistan tariff-free exports to European markets. “The GSP Plus status provided Pakistan a greater opportunity to fully exploit its potential in textile sector and beyond by increasing its exports, which may result in the creation of thousands of new jobs,” he said.
The government of Pakistan has established Treaty Implementation Cell at the Ministry of Commerce to check whether all the ratified conventions are ratified or not in all the provinces.
Syed Mohsin Abbas Shah, focal person for Treaty Implementation Cell, said that the GSP Plus status was neither for the government nor for the “civil society”, it was for the people of Pakistan.
“From exports of Euros 4 billion we could go to Euros 10 billion. However presently, we are hovering around Euros 5 to 6 billion exports due to obvious reasons related to energy crisis. The business community could still take it up to Euros 10 billion with concentrated effort that would also generate two million jobs. We have the clear instructions from the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that Pakistan must ensure compliance with all the 27 conventions it has ratified,” he added.
Speaking on the occasion, activist Bushra Khaliq said that it was easy to ratify conventions but implementing them was difficult. She added that with each day passing, the number of out-of-school children was increasing while labour laws did not address the issues of labour community.
She said that “state’s negligence” in properly protecting the minorities in Pakistan could not be ruled out. “On one side we are ratifying the conventions while on the other, we are passing the laws such as PPO and Cyber-Crime Laws which are against basic human rights,” said Khaliq.
The business community, civil society and the government have to work together for the effective implementation of the conventions, she added.
APTMA’s Amir Fayyaz Sheikh said that 400 businessman who were a part of APTMA were “completely complying” with the 27 conventions that had been ratified. He added that the textile sector has reduced the carbon dioxide emission by 40,000 tonnes which would play a major role in environment protection.
Sheikh added that after the GSP Plus status, textile sector is eyeing to increase exports from $13 billion to $26 billion and double the direct and indirect job from 15 million to 30 million jobs in the next five years.
Moreover, Karamat Ali, a labour rights activist, emphasised the need to change the mindset of the Labour Department and amend flawed legislations. The event was concluded by acclaimed human rights defender IA Rehman after a questions and answers session.