The European Union has not given blanket extension to the GSP Plus scheme and Islamabad needs to submit a fresh application along with an action plan to implement 32 international conventions to continue enjoying benefits of the scheme till 2034, said an EU delegate on Thursday.
Pakistan would have to submit a new application for seeking extension in the existing Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP Plus) scheme beyond 2023, said the EU official while giving a background briefing.
The application will be assessed by the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission. However, the European Parliament has passed two resolutions in the past six months to review Pakistan’s GSP Plus status, which will expire in 2023, if not withdrawn earlier.
Pakistan needs to deal with current expectations of the EU and future regulations to remain a beneficiary of the GSP Plus, said the official.
The European Commission last week proposed new EU regulations for the 2024-34 GSP Plus scheme. The EU remains Pakistan’s largest export destination where over €3 billion worth of goods were exported in the first half of current year, up by 11%.
It is technically incorrect to say that the EU has extended the GSP Plus scheme. If the EU does not withdraw the scheme, it will end in December 2023, said the EU official.
He said that the EU was already monitoring Pakistan’s compliance with 27 conventions and after the European Parliament resolutions, the commission enhanced the evaluation level. He said that the February 2022 compliance report would be delayed due to Covid-related travel restrictions.
The assistance provided by Pakistan to evacuate European nationals from Afghanistan was very much appreciated but that could not be a replacement for the technical review of the GSP Plus scheme, he added while responding to a question.
Read GSP+ status for Pakistan extended
For qualifying for preferential treatment for the next 10 years, the European bloc of 27 nations has now proposed to include five new international conventions – four of them related to human and labour rights.
This would require the ratification of 32 conventions in total, including five new, and an action plan to demonstrate the effective implementation of the relevant conventions.
The proposed new regulations provide a two-year transition period from the existing framework that will expire in December 2023 to a new, more stringent framework.
The five new conventions are optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, convention on labour inspection, convention on tripartite consultation and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crimes.
One existing protocol, Koyto protocol, will be replaced by the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Pakistan has already ratified all 32 international conventions but it needs to improve their implementation, he added.
Pakistan is demonstrating commitment to these international conventions but issues raised four years ago remain unimplemented even today, said the EU delegate.
It is a question of whether the glass is half full or half empty, as Pakistan’s performance has so far remained mixed with a lot more needs to be done, he added.
During recent months, the discussions with Pakistani authorities remained focused on labour rights violations in Export Promotion Zones, child protection, death penalty, international non-governmental organisations and media freedom.
Pakistan will have to start preparing and implementing the action plan from now if it wants to apply and it should not wait for 2024, said the EU official.
The EU official said that the new proposed GSP Plus regulations maintained all the current features but it had been made more effective and carried a quicker mechanism to suspend the GSP Plus benefits on violations of commitments by the beneficiary country.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2021.
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