EU gives assurance of enhancing market access

Farhan Zaheer April 16, 2010

KARACHI: The European Union is trying to give Pakistan more access to the European markets and the matter is on the EU’s main political agenda, an EU official said.

However, that was not easy as the EU being a big bloc of 27 countries needed time to take the members into confidence, said Jan De Kok, the European Union Ambassador to Pakistan. He was talking to media persons at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Thursday.

French Consul General Pierre Seillan and other diplomats were also present on the occasion. “We have been given instructions to increase trade with Pakistan and give the country more access to our markets,” he added. “We are here not to give you aid, but to have trade,” he said. The EU would hold a Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) forum in July this year.

In this forum, EU member countries would deliberate on the sectors in which they could invest in Pakistan. The energy sector might be one of the areas of interest to the members, he said. The EU and Pakistan have been holding negotiations for making headway in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). “But this is also a time-consuming job. It will take a long time to reach the final stage,” he added. The EU has announced a 39-million-euro assistance for education in Pakistan, he said.

As far as Pakistan’s demand of awarding the Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSPplus) status was concerned, Kok said, a team of experts was reviewing policy matters on the subject in Brussels. “If the new criterion is met, the EU will surely award the status to Pakistan,” he added. He said South Asia was the least integrated region in the world and “an increase in trade with the neighbours will lead to de-escalation of tensions.”

“Pakistan is not such a bad country as has been highlighted in the media,” he said. “One of my senior colleagues in the hierarchy visited Karachi and Islamabad recently and at the end of the visit, he found that Pakistan was not such a bad place,” he said.

What the EU is eager to do for Pakistan is to paint a positive picture the world over. “We also have extremists and militants in our societies, but we have developed a system to deal with them,” he said.

In the near future, the EU delegation would visit the KCCI again with representatives from more member countries and hold a show to paint a positive picture of Pakistan, he said. KCCI President Abdul Majid Haji Muhammad said that Pakistan needed more access to the EU markets, increase in trade and GSP-plus status.

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