EU GSP+ report on Pakistan demonstrates progress, but improvement still needed

Trade Chief MEP, Sajjad Karim, has welcomed the European Union’s (EU) biennial report on the Generalised Scheme of Preference (GSP+) arrangement with Pakistan, but highlighted the need for further improvement.

The report, which covers the period 2016-2017, was published by the European Commission last week and shows the positive impact of the EU’s scheme on developing economies, including Pakistan in areas, such as civil liberties and trade.

Sajjad Karim - who Chairs the South Asia Trade Monitoring Committee within the European Parliament - recognised the positive developments made by Pakistan in strengthening their human rights framework, with legislative actions on the rights of women, children, minorities and labour rights.

However, he warned that these areas, as well as the use of torture, application of the death penalty, high prevalence of child labour and freedom of expression pose serious concern and that Pakistan must step-up its efforts to ensure enforcement and implementation of legislation.

Speaking in Brussels,Sajjad said:

“Today’s report on GSP+ is a much anticipated account of the past two years in Pakistan under the GSP+ scheme and is greatly welcomed.

“On human rights there have been many improvements, with legislation on the rights of women & children and also legislation on torture & juvenile justice in the pipeline. But there are still major concerns in these and other areas, including on the application of the death penalty. The overall human rights situation is therefore mixed and Pakistan must step-up its efforts to ensure enforcement and implementation of legislation.

“Trade diversification must also be actively pursued. Relying so heavily on one product category, such as the garment industry, carries great risks for Pakistan. Business to business links between the EU and Pakistan must also be improved if we are to see an increase in trade and growth.

“Whilst the general trajectory so far seems positive, the country must continue to meet the targets set by the EU that come as being a part of this programme, if it is to retain the trade status that is helping to boost their economy.”

The North West MEP also noted the current political situation in the UK regarding Brexit, highlighting that the majority of Pakistan’s textiles exports go there, so this would have to be factored into any future policies.

Mr Karim was instrumental in Pakistan gaining its coveted GSP+ trade status and in 2015 was awarded the Sitara-i-Qaid-i-Azam - the highest national honour to non-Pakistanis for services that have helped the country - joining ranks with the British Queen and Nelson Mandela.

He also Chairs the Friends of Pakistan Group within the European Parliament.