The arrival of a European Union monitoring team should bring home a number of truths to the country, the first of which is that the EU has discretion over which country it grants GSP Plus. In short, Pakistan does not have a prescriptive right to this status, and to retain it, will have to fulfill the EU’s requirements. At the same time, there should be some soul-searching on what sort of society Pakistan has become, where it should worry about a mission which will merely determine the country’s compliance with 27 international conventions it has itself signed. True, some of the signings took place because of EU pressure, but the desirability of GSP Plus status seems to have played its part; and it has enabled Pakistani exporters to increase exports 65 percent since joining the scheme in 2014. The scheme is scheduled to expire in December 2023, and this review is not just the usual biennial review to determine whether the GSP Plus status should continue, but whether it should extend for another 10 years, from 2024 to 2033.
The EU team will be most interested in implementation of conventions relating to human and labour rights, environmental protection, climate change and good governance. Pakistan should be paying attention in these areas anyhow, and it has already signed the relevant conventions, so it might want to wonder what sort of society it has become, that it views this review mission with anything less than calm. It needs to wonder why it resents the possibility of being stopped from violating human rights, especially labour rights.
The EU is not just interested in these areas because its pushing an agenda, as because the European consumer wants to make sure that the goods supplied to him or her have been manufactured without violating the labour laws or infringing human rights. There are issues such as the blasphemy laws and the death penalty dividing Pakistan and the EU, but the former should remember that GSP Plus status has beem strongly resented by India, with its diplomats actively working against it in the EU, apart from defending its actions in Kashmir, something which has caused much worry in the EU Parliament. Pakistan will have to demonstrate that it is actively doing enough to address shortcomings that would jeopardise it maintaining the GSP plus status.