Pakistan's GSP Plus status to continue; six new conventions introduced

Conventions pertain to greater accessibility for people with physical disability, eradication of child labour and environment

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European flags fly outside the European Commission building, in Brussels, in this AFP file photo.
European flags fly outside the European Commission building, in Brussels, in this AFP file photo.

BRUSSELS: Pakistan's Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) status will continue for now, it emerged on Tuesday, with six new conventions introduced.

The new conventions pertain to greater accessibility for people with physical disability, the eradication of child labour, and environmental safety.

The Commission, which reviewed the status of several other countries along with Pakistan, said talks will continue with the EU-Pakistan Joint Commission.

"In the latest review, Pakistan's individual status was not discussed," it said, adding that the discussion revolved around "new conditions" in GSP Plus, which include the six new aforementioned conventions.

A temporary withdrawal of a country’s GSP+ status, which was earlier feared by Pakistan, is an option of the last resort when all other means of political dialogue and engagement do not produce the necessary results.

Today’s review relates to the EU Regulation establishing the EU’s GSP framework, which expires at the end of 2023. It is not a review of individual GSP+ beneficiaries.

Individual GSP+ beneficiaries undergo a regular monitoring of their implementation of GSP-relevant conventions on human and labour rights, environment and climate, and good governance. This is done under the current framework and will continue so under the new one.

The Commission, together with the European External Action Service (EEAS), is closely monitoring the political developments in Pakistan and the country’s respect for the relevant UN/ILO Conventions.

According to a statement: “We have taken note of the matters raised and the issues highlighted in the EP Resolution on Pakistan (29 April 2021), which has received significant coverage also in Pakistan. We have discussed it and its content with the Pakistani authorities, through our delegation and here in Brussels.”

“Although GSP monitoring missions to Pakistan are not foreseen at the moment, our engagement with the authorities continues by all other means possible. For example, the joint EU-Pakistan joint sub group on human rights was held on June 1, and covered a broad range of human rights issues, including freedom of religion and of expression.”

It added that monitoring of Pakistan’s obligations takes place on a continuous basis to assess whether Pakistan’s effectively implementation of the relevant conventions is improving (not just through the publication of the periodic implementation reports).

A European Commission official told this correspondent that Pakistan’s progress on legislation on the security of labour and efforts on environment protection in Pakistan have been satisfactory.

Two resolutions against Pakistan in the European parliament suggesting a suspension of Pakistan’s GSP+ status could not convince the European Commission to suspend its GSP+ status, despite both resolutions having been passed with an overwhelming majority. Therefore, EU has for now kept Pakistan’s GSP+ status.

It has however introduced in its new GSP proposal, which will come into effect from 2024, six new international conventions. 

The continuation of Pakistan's GSP+ status will provide a major boost to an economic decline that had begun in 2017. 

Sources told Geo News that since less than two years remain for the status to lapse, parties sympathetic with Pakistan at the EU, despite the presence of major anti-Pakistan lobbies, are trying to drag the review so that Pakistan continues to benefit from the status till the end.

In March 2020, the EU extended Pakistan's GSP+ status till 2022.

Pakistan had ratified and signed 27 conventions prior to getting the GSP+ back in 2014 and a compliance report is released periodically, reviewing progress on the desired objectives.

Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood said in August there are no threats to Pakistan's current GSP Plus status and "no one should be worried about it".

"A few days back, I had a meeting with the prime minister and we are trying to get another two years of GSP Plus," Dawood told the media.

However, concerns of a possible suspension of the status remained after European Union’s Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara said earlier this month that the protection of human rights, press freedom and enforced disappearances in Pakistan were some of the union's major concerns.

The ambassador said at 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.

“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.