Ball is in court of Pakistan to attain GSP Plus in EU: Wigemark

KARACHI: Chairman Businessmen Group & former President KCCI speaking on the occasion of visit of LarsGunnar Wigemark to KCCI stated that it is heartening to note that EU countries’ leaders are supportive of the proposal to accommodate Pakistan in the new GSP Plus initiative from 2014 onwards.

Pakistan is fortunate to be a preferred, strategic and largest economic partner of European Union. He hoped Pakistan would qualify for the GSP Plus commencing from 2014, providing the Pakistani exporters to enhance export to EU. On IndoPak Trade, he was of the view that politics should not hamper the process of trade liberalization. The business community of Pakistan is resilient against all crises, he said.

Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s President Muhammad Haroon Agar stated that Pakistan seeks fair access to EU market access and to get GSP Plus status.

He hoped that after attainment of GSP Plus, Pakistan’s trade with EU countries would make a quantum leap. We are pleased to note that the EUPakistan bilateral trade exceeded 8 billion Euros, ranking the EU as Pakistan’s first trading partner. The EU is taking 21.2% of Pakistan total exports. EUPakistan trade increase by almost 4.7% annually between 2007 to 2011.

Pakistani exports to the EU are dominated by textiles and clothing as well as leather products. Pakistan’s imports from the EU mainly comprise mechanical and electrical machinery as well as chemical and pharmaceutical products. The overall EUPakistan trade volume reached 8.1 billion in 2011, up by 19 percent from 2009, with Pakistan enjoying 1 billion a surplus in the balance of trade with the EU.

LarsGunnar Wigemark, Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan, during his visit to Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry KCCI articulated that the ball is in the court of Pakistan to effectively negotiate with EU to obtain GSP plus in 2014.

From 1st January 2014, the EU’s new Generalised System of Preferences GSP regime will come into force which will be valid for 7 to 8 years from 2014. Pakistan has yet not applied for GSP Plus. New regulations have been adopted to accommodate countries such as Pakistan.

EU treats its trade partners equally. For attainment it is imperative that Pakistan’s Government may establish special group to timely negotiate as the EU Commission in Brussels will take at least six month time to evaluate application. Pakistan is already benefitting from the existing GSP, but it is aspiring to obtain GSP plus status under this new regime.

If Pakistan qualifies 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 will be able to export most of its products to the EU duty free/quota free. We have expectations and hope that Pakistan may qualify for GSP Plus in EU.

Ambassador apprised that European Union EU is the largest trading partner of Pakistan with an annual trade volume of over 8 billion euro. Pakistan is 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 articulated that on 23 January 2012 the EU Foreign Affairs Council, consisting of the Foreign Ministers of all 27 Member States in the European Union and chaired by the EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, approved a joint EUPakistan 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 will be subject to specific ceilings tariff rate quotas.

The measures will remain effective until 31 December 2013. 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.

Ambassador voiced that Pakistan is 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 that with compliance of EU’s fish processing standards, it would become possible to resume seafood exports.

He said that difficulties and challenges of security, energy, lack of governance need government’s attention. EU is supportive to election process, timely elections are important. In 2008, EU send to Pakistan an election observation mission. He urged the media to play its role in election transparency. He anticipated that the new Government will accord importance to investment and uplift economy.

On a question about regional trade integration, EU’s Ambassador said that 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 IndoPak 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 that 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 that 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.

Majyd Aziz, Former President KCCI, Shamim Firpo, Senior Vice President, Nasir Mehmood, Vice President, and Managing Committee Members of KCCI also participated in the meeting.

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