The European Union has assured Pakistan that its stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict will have no bearing on the inclusion of Islamabad in the next 10-year GSP+ (Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus).
A Western Diplomat stated, “we are not going to punish any country for their stance on Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The West, particularly the United States, put pressure on Pakistan to officially oppose Russia’s invasion. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan claimed that the US orchestrated his dismissal in order to punish him for pursuing an independent foreign policy on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Read more: Status of GSP+ extension for Pakistan
Although there has been a gradual movement in Pakistan’s position since the current government took office, Islamabad remains in a fragile balance.
Since Russia’s invasion has challenged Europe’s security, there have been fears that the 27-nation bloc may punish countries that do not support their stance on the Ukraine war.
Pakistan was concerned that its chances of extending its participation in the GSP+ system would become more difficult.
However, a Western diplomat has stated that Pakistan’s case for GSP+ will not be decided on “political issues.” Instead, the decision would be based on the country’s progress in implementing the 27 international conventions to which Islamabad was a signatory.
A European Union monitoring mission comprising officials from the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the European Commission’s Directorates-General for Trade and for Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion, arrived in Pakistan on 22 June. The mission will assess the effective implementation of 27 international conventions Pakistan is signatory to.
The GSP+ (Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus) provides wide-ranging tariff preferences for imports to the EU from vulnerable developing countries to support poverty eradication, sustainable development and their participation in the global economy as well as reinforce good governance. Eligible countries like Pakistan can export goods to the EU market at zero duties for 66% of tariff lines. This preferential status is conditional on GSP+ countries demonstrating tangible progress on the implementation of 27 international conventions on human and labor rights, environmental protection, climate change and good governance.
GSP+ has been very beneficial for Pakistani business increasing their exports to the EU market by 65% since the country joined GSP+ in 2014. The European Single Market, with over 440 million consumers, is Pakistan’s most important destination. Pakistan exports worth EUR 5.4 billion (approx. PKR 1.2 trillion), namely garments, bedlinen, terry towels, hosiery, leather, sports, and surgical goods
During the mission, meetings with the government, the UN Country Team, International Labor Organization (ILO), business and civil society representatives as well as other stakeholders will take place. The findings of the mission will be part of the next GSP report, which is due to be presented to the European Parliament and the Council towards end of 2022.
The European Union continuously monitors the implementation of relevant 27 international conventions drawing inter alia on the reports and information by the UN and other international agencies that are custodian of the respective convention. The EU regularly sends monitoring missions to assess the situation on the ground and to subsequently reflect its evaluation in the publicly available report to the European Parliament and to the EU Member States in the Council. So far, three biennial reviews have been concluded in 2016, 2018 and 2020, respectively.
Apart from Pakistan, the EU currently unilaterally grants GSP+ tariff concessions to Bolivia, Cabo Verde, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan. The current GSP framework is coming to an end in December 2023. Legislative process on its successor for 2024-2033 is ongoing.