EU market access to make headway soon

With objections declining, bloc likely to open doors for two years


Ppi January 31, 2012

KARACHI: The European Union aims to bolster Pakistan’s faltering economy by fulfilling a 16-month-old pledge to slash tariffs on dozens of textile products this spring.

With World Trade Organisation hurdles cleared, the EU could enshrine trade terms as soon as April or May, said EU ambassador to Pakistan Lars-Gunnar Wigemark. “We are hopeful these trade concessions will finally be approved by the WTO, and then adopted into law by the European Union,” Wigemark told the Financial Times. “It looks very positive.”

The bloc had agreed to grant greater market access to Pakistani exports as a goodwill gesture after devastating floods that tore through the country in 2010. But the proposal has been held up in a series of negotiations at the World Trade Organization, which must approve the exemptions.

EU officials are optimistic that countries that had raised objections – including India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam – are now prepared to endorse the measures at a series of WTO meetings in February. France, Italy and Portugal had also initially been wary of the deal, fearing it might hurt their domestic textile industries.

EU hopes the concessions – which are due to last at least two years – will buttress a broader drive by Brussels to improve relations at a time when Pakistan’s ties with the US are at their most strained in a decade. Pakistan has lobbied western countries for greater access for its textiles – which account for some 60% of its exports – with limited success.

Under the deal, EU will remove tariffs on a list of more than 70 items, mainly textile products but also some ethanol.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2012.

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