LONDON - The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to support a new EU trade preference scheme for developing countries as of 1 January 2014. The updated generalised system of preferences (GSP) allows countries such as Pakistan to pay lower or zero import tariffs on their goods sold to the EU. British Conservative MEP and Legal Affairs spokesperson, Sajjad Karim LLB (Hons), said: "Trade is the engine of growth. And now the new EU trade scheme is more predictable and more generous to countries that are more deserved. The new scheme will allow Pakistan to apply for zero EU duties to be charged on their exports if they reciprocate by abiding by 27 international conventions in the field of human rights." The new EU trade scheme will reduce the number of countries that enjoy preferential access to EU markets from 176 to around 75 thus creating room to increase preferences for the remaining beneficiaries. Furthermore the GSP+ scheme will contribute to the promotion of human rights, democracy and freedom of speech in the developing world. Sajjad Karim, the Chairman of the European Parliament Friends of Pakistan Group, has been a long term advocate for stronger ties between the EU and Pakistan: "The European Parliament Friends of Pakistan group has been campaigning to increase the threshold of the GSP+ scheme to allow Pakistan to enjoy more trade with the EU." He also dismissed the few MEPs who called for Pakistan not to be included in the trade scheme in a European Parliament debate on Monday: "The clear long term strategy is for the EU and Pakistan to cooperate on a wide range of issues including trade, security and policy. The EU-Pakistan Five Year Engagement Plan and the recent successful launch of the first Strategic Dialogue in Islamabad this month with Baroness Ashton is clear evidence of that."