Pakistan-European Union Joint Commission reviews Islamabad’s progress in achieving implementation of 27 international conventions stipulated for GSP+ status
Pakistan and the European Union this week agreed to enhance bilateral trade, including by addressing issues hampering trade and investment, as well as the implementation of 27 international conventions stipulated under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) trade arrangement.
“Pakistan acknowledged the extension of its GSP+ status as a mutually rewarding step and affirmed its full commitment to fulfil its obligations under the GSP+,” read a statement issued by the Foreign Office on Friday—two days after a video conference of the Pakistan-European Union Joint Commission. “Pakistan underlined the relevant measures and actions taken since September last year,” it added. The same pledge was reiterated during a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey.
GSP+ is a preferential trade arrangement that prioritizes access for developing countries to European markets by slashing to zero tariffs on most products. Countries availing GSP+ status are required to implement 27 international conventions related to human rights, labor rights, protection of the environment and good governance. The E.U. maintains that the requirements encourage sustainable development in its trade partners.
Pakistan has been benefiting from the GSP+ status since January 2014 and has already ratified all 27 conventions. However, the implementation of the same has been lagging. The E.U. has repeatedly raised concerns about Pakistan’s press freedom, human rights, gender equality, minority rights, and its use of the death penalty in criminal convictions.
According to the statement issued after the Joint Commission’s video-conference, the meeting provided an opportunity for both sides to exchange views on all areas of cooperation. “Joint efforts in the fields of democracy, governance, rule of law and human rights, cooperation on human rights issues at international fora, and the promotion and protection of all fundamental freedoms were discussed,” it said, adding that both sides had reaffirmed their commitment to promoting and protecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion and belief, the rights of minority communities, freedom of expression, women’s and children’s rights. “Pakistan informed [the E.U.] about developments concerning the Journalist Protection Bill, the Forced or Involuntary Disappearance Bill and the Anti-Torture Law,” it said.
The E.U., meanwhile, raised concerns regarding the death penalty and the ongoing abuse of blasphemy laws.
The Joint Commission also discussed the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Pakistan appreciating the humanitarian assistance provided by the E.U. Islamabad highlighted its efforts for economic recovery and both sides discussed their ongoing vaccination programs. They also exchanged views on climate change and discussed cooperation in the fields of education, culture, science and technology. The Joint Commission also provided an opportunity to discuss migration and mobility and to follow up on the discussions of the E.U.-Pakistan Joint Readmission Committee, which was held on Feb. 24, 2021.
“The E.U. welcomed the progress made by Pakistan in the implementation of the Financial Action Task Force Action Plan and Pakistan’s commitment to continue the engagement with the FATF to address all the remaining issues,” read the joint declaration.
Both sides also reaffirmed their strong support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and encouraged the parties to the conflict to resume negotiations in earnest to achieve lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. “The E.U. and Pakistan … call on the parties to observe a lasting humanitarian ceasefire, in response to the global appeal by U.N. Secretary General Guterres, and to strive towards a complete elimination of violence as a clear demonstration of their genuine commitment to lasting peace and reconciliation,” it added. The E.U. appreciated Pakistan’s hosting of millions of Afghan refugees for the past two decades.
Meanwhile, Pakistan briefed the E.U. on recent developments in the region and reiterated its concerns regarding the human rights situation in India-held Jammu and Kashmir. “The E.U. welcomed the recent reiteration by Pakistan and India to fully implement the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding along the Line of Control and encouraged more confidence-building measures between Pakistan and India,” it said.