- The extension of GSP Plus status will help boost exports
The European Commission has extended GSP Plus status for Pakistan till 2022 which would allow duty free access of Pakistani goods, especially textiles, into 27 member countries of the European Union. That indeed is a very positive and encouraging development as the countries of the European Union are the biggest market for our textile and garments and a major source of foreign exchange earnings. The extension in the GSP Plus was absolutely essential for our export sector, because our textiles and garments as yet cannot openly compete with other countries like China, India, Bangladesh, Turkey and Vietnam which are also marketing their textiles in EU countries.
Our textile and garment industries, besides earning foreign exchange, also provide job opportunities for our ever increasing labour force, especially women. According to reliable sources, since the grant of GSP Plus to Pakistan in 2014, our exports to the EU have increased from €4.538 billion in 2013 to €7.492 billion in 2019, registering an increase of 65 percent. The extension in the GSP Plus comes in the wake of the European Commission report on the implementation of 27 international conventions by Pakistan. The report particularly appreciated and expressed satisfaction on the progress made in regards to areas of climate change, forestation under the billion-tree tsunami project, improved vigilance to combat illicit narcotics and wildlife trade, political and administrative reforms to integrate the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), social protection initiatives like the Ehsas Programnme, promotion of Inter-Faith Harmony including opening of Kartarpur Corridor, and legislation to ensure the rights of women, children and the transgender.
Though Pakistan has qualified for the GSP on the basis of the progress made on international conventions, still a lot needs to be done in our own interest to improve on the avenues of good governance, which is not only utmost imperative for realizing our national objectives but also for earning a respectable place in the comity of nations. It is pertinent to point out that an ideal situation would be when Pakistan does not have to rely on concessional treatment from the EU and its products can openly compete in that market. The government and the business community need a productive collaboration in that regard
The 3rd Biennial Assessment of GSP was published by the European Commission on February 10, 2020. According to GSP Regulations, the Commission and European External Action Service (EEAS) has to submit a report to the European Parliament and European Council on the performance of the GSP Scheme and the status of compliance of GSP-beneficiary countries on the 27 international conventions covered under the Regulation. The report was discussed in the International Trade (INTA) Committee of the EU Parliament on February 19 and in the GSP Working Party of the European Council on February 26.The European Commission and External Action Service recommended at both the forums to continue GSP Scheme and stated their monitoring priorities for the next biennial monitoring cycle. Other countries which also have been given this facility include Armenia, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines and Sri Lanka.
The federal government, provincial governments and the concerned ministries and departments under them deserve accolades for making concerted efforts in regards to the implementation of the international conventions essential for claiming the GSP Plus status. In this regard the visionary Ehsas Programme launched by the PTI government under the stewardship of Prime Minister Imran Khan which is meant to eliminate poverty, achieve empowerment of women and make loans to youth for starting their own businesses, has received great appreciation from the European Commission.
As they say, credit must be given where it is due. The PTI government has not only taken imaginative and pragmatic initiatives to stem the rot in the economy but has also put in place unprecedented measures to change the fortunes of the less-privileged sections of the society through the multi-dimensional Ehsas initiative. It is pertinent to point out that the status of GSP Plus beneficiary granted to Pakistan by EU has not come not only through the implementation of the international conventions but also by intensive lobbying by the Pakistani embassies in the EU countries, Ministry of Commerce and the government of Pakistan at the highest level.
The extension in the GSP Plus status has provided yet another opportunity to our business community and industrialists to make their contribution to the much needed enhancement in our exports as they are considered to be the biggest propeller of any economy. The concession given by the EU would provide necessary props for the efforts of the PTI government to revive the economy through export-led growth, which forms the pivot of its economic strategy. It is likely to spur economic activity within the country besides creating millions of new jobs.
The grant of GSP Plus to Pakistan, besides representing success of the well coordinated diplomatic offensive of the government, also indicates the faith of the EU countries in the quality of our textile products. The EU is Pakistan’s key partner in peace and development. The approval of the GSP Plus also reflects the commitment of the European Union to its relations with Pakistan. The country direly needed this preferential treatment as its textile products are still not competitive at the global level. It is like a whiff of fresh air for our strangulated economy. The endorsement by the EU of the progress made by Pakistan with regard to international conventions also goes a long way in improving the image of the country in the comity of nations.
The GSP Scheme was launched by the EU in 1971 under which duty-free import of goods from developing countries is allowed with the objective of nudging and encouraging sustainable development and good governance in them. It is a kind of incentive arrangement for the developing countries. The beneficiaries are included in the programme on the basis of having ratified and implemented 27 UN conventions regarding human rights, good governance and environment. Pakistan has already ratified those conventions and fulfilled other qualifying conditions. However, some key members of the EU, including Germany, have been insisting on elimination of the death penalty and of child labour in Pakistan to support its bid for inclusion in the GSP Scheme.
Though Pakistan has qualified for the GSP on the basis of the progress made on international conventions, still a lot needs to be done in our own interest to improve on the avenues of good governance, which is not only utmost imperative for realizing our national objectives but also for earning a respectable place in the comity of nations. It is pertinent to point out that an ideal situation would be when Pakistan does not have to rely on concessional treatment from the EU and its products can openly compete in that market. The government and the business community need a productive collaboration in that regard.