At a time when good news regarding external relations is something of a rarity a pat on the back from the European Parliament is welcome indeed. Comments were made expressing satisfaction on the progress that has been made regarding the implementation of the 27 core conventions of the GSP Plus. Such is the level of satisfaction that the International Committee on International Trade may consider the possibility of upgrading the EU relationship with Pakistan from being a simple beneficiary of the GSP Plus scheme to being an FTA partner at a future time.
Why this is important is that such a move is not proposed or made without close monitoring for compliance by an external agency. The EU monitors are going to be looking hard at just how hard Pakistan is trying and is unlikely to be fooled by smoke and mirrors. Any move in any direction is objectively quantifiable to our betterment or otherwise. There is hope that Pakistan is going to continue to engage with the EU; and it would appear at least possible that a factor in this satisfactory outcome is the diplomatic efforts made by Secretary Commerce Mohammad Younus Dagha who had travelled to Brussels to advance the Pakistan cause. It is also encouraging to note that the diplomatic service are upping their game to meet developmental needs.
Another factor in the more positive response from the EU is advancement with aspects of the National Action Plan (NAP) which is not as dead as may be often supposed. Specifically and perhaps surprisingly to the casual observer it is progress in the field of human rights that has raised EU expectations. Legislative and institutional measures have been taken such as the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission and a National Action Plan for Human Rights which caught the EU attention. Whether either is going to translate into concrete action remains to be seen as legislation without implementation is little more than cosmetic — which any EU monitor will quickly note. Perception is everything. Pakistan is here presented with a rare window of opportunity to positively influence external perceptions. Grasp it. Hard.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2018.
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