Renewal of GSP Plus: EU expresses concerns over human rights, enforced disappearances

EU envoy - The News Today - TNT

ISLAMABAD: European Union’s Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara said that the protection of human rights, press freedom and enforced disappearances in Pakistan were some of the union’s major concerns, while no official text related to the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PMDA) was made available.

Addressing a news conference at the launching of the first ever EU-Pakistan Business Forum for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) in Islamabad, the ambassador said that the compliance report for gauging Islamabad’s progress on 27 United Nations conventions was currently under preparation, while the existing arrangement of GSP Plus (GSP +) for Pakistan and other countries was going to expire by the end of 2023.

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“All recipient countries, including Pakistan, will have to apply for renewal of GSP Plus status beyond December 2023 as 27 conventions with addition of a few more form the eligibility criteria for its extension,” she added.

She said that Pakistan had ratified and signed 27 conventions prior to getting the GSP Plus back in 2014 and a compliance report was being released periodically, reviewing progress on the desired objectives. She said that the EU was implementing 100 million Euro grants for different sectors in Pakistan.

To a query about the possibility of extending GSP Plus beyond December 2023, she said it would entirely depend upon Pakistan’s progress in achieving the 27 UN conventions.

She said that Pakistan’s exports are going up by 7.5 billion Euros every year in the aftermath of GSP Plus, providing millions of jobs. The EU, she said, would prepare an objective compliance report that would be released soon, forming the basis for an extension of GSP Plus incentives for an extended period. She said the draft policy about extension of GSP Plus would be prepared by the European Commission but it was the domain of the EU Parliament to approve the new policy.

Earlier, during the conference, the DG EU told the participants that the EU would provide a window of 45 million Euro for SMEs in Pakistan till 2023. He said that Pakistan’s SME sector could replicate experiences of the EU markets on account of placing policy framework, access to finance and transfer of technology. The payment delays could prove an important issue for SMEs, he added.

According to a press statement issued by the EU office in Islamabad, the EU delegation launched the first ever EU-Pakistan Business Forum for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) in Islamabad on Wednesday. It was attended by representatives of local SMEs from Gems, Jewellery and Mining, Information Technology, Handicrafts and Fashion-wear as well as Travel and Tourism.

The initiative of the EU-Pakistan Business Forum provides opportunities for both EU and Pakistani businesses to work to become engines of development and partnership and contribute to enhancing bilateral trade.

During the first Islamabad session, the participants were apprised about how they could benefit from the European Union’s GSP Plus Scheme, which provides duty free access of two-thirds of tariff lines to the EU market with the rest on preferential duties.

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