ISLAMABAD: The government would have to ensure improvement in internal governance and compliance to global conventions to maintain its special status provided by the European Union (EU) on trade.
This was stated by the experts at a panel discussion titled: “Have GSP+ and FTAs improved Pakistan’s Trade Competitiveness?” on the third day of 25th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Wednesday. The 4-day conference is being held in Islamabad from 5-8 December 2022.
Dr Stephen Langrell, First Counsellor at the Delegation of the European Union to Pakistan, said the countries namely Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Pakistan have a common benefit of GSP+ that provides preferential access to EU market, which is a market of 400 million people. He said Pakistan is the largest beneficiary of GSP+ among 9 other countries whereas there has been a considerable growth in the exports of the country that doubled in 2020.
The EU envoy insisted that it was important for Pakistan to understand that EU is a single market whereas the GSP facility has three different variants, from standard to plus. The EU opens its doors to Pakistani exports and what costs EU to waive duties worth 500 million euros under this special trade status, he added. Dr Langrell added that by default Pakistan will fall into standard GSP after no revocation of its GSP+ but it has a classic trickledown effect.
Aftab Haider, CEO Pakistan Single Window, said Pakistan is facing competition from the rising competitors meeting the supply chain demands. He added that there is a need to take stock of our competitiveness in the prevailing scenario after GSP+. There is also a need to focus on disruptive technologies, artificial intelligence, virtual reality as these technologies are finding their ways into cross border trades, he said.
Technological advancement will trigger changes in global supply chains and diminish cost of trade whereas technological innovation is reducing the cost of doing business, Haider said. Usman Khan, Team Leader Remit Programme, LUMS, said there is a need to focus on diversification of export basket, which is limited. There also need to look at different aspects of our exports and their market space in EU and other countries.
Gonzalo J. Varela, Senior Economist, World Bank Group, said trade competitiveness, GSP+ and FTAs need to be seen as an enabler to bring change. He underlined that Pakistani workers at present added 40% more value in their products whereas it is over 300% in Vietnam that needs to be focused for better trade outcomes. The untapped potential of Pakistan is $61 billion out of which some $8 billion is alone in trade with EU and most of it is within the region, he added. Ms Aisha Moriani, Additional Secretary, MoIT, said the trade agreements in the past were not ideal and Pakistan learnt a lot from its experiences in this regard. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has complemented the FTA as infrastructure and energy development was critical to reap its outcomes, she added. She said there were more environment friendly options and the country wanted to be more environment based economy. “EU’s GSP plus agreement can help promote more green economy.”