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February 12, 2020

‘Pakistan lacks capacity to enforce laws for tariff concessions’

Business

February 12, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistani institutions lack capacity to implement and enforce the legislations essential to keep up tariff concessions on trade with the 27-member EU block despite the country’s commitment to comply with the international standards, European Commission said.

“Pakistan has shown commitment in maintaining ratification and meeting reporting obligations to the treaty bodies for the 27 UN conventions,” the commission said in a latest report with two-year extension period for the country’s GSP plus status expiring this month.

The European Commission said improvements have been made in adopting legislation during the last two years, “yet the capacity of institutions to implement and enforce the legislation remains weak.”

“The challenge of availability of reliable data on implementation of treaty body obligations makes it difficult to assess the situation on the ground,” it said in the report published every two years on the generalised scheme of preferences (GSP).

In February 2018, European Union (EU) extended timeline for Pakistan for two years to avail a partial or full removal of customs duties on two third of tariff lines in return of compliance with 27 conventions related to labor and human rights. The country was the top among nine countries availing GSP plus status as it accounted for accounted for 62.2 percent of all GSP plus imports to the EU last year compared to 74 percent in 2018.

From 2008 to 2018, EU imports from Pakistan almost doubled from €3.6 to €6.8 billion. The growth of imports was particularly fast following the award of GSP plus to Pakistan in January 2014, with a 30 percent increase of between 2014 and 2016. The growth of Pakistan exports to the EU have since slowed down, but the country continues to enjoy a trade surplus with the EU (€1.2 billion in 2018).

The EU is Pakistan’s first export destination absorbing over a third (34 percent) of the country’s total exports to the world in 2018, followed by the USA (16pc), China (8pc) and Afghanistan (5pc). The EU is Pakistan’s third largest source of imports, after China (23pc) and the UAE (14pc), accounting for around nine percent of the total in 2018.

The European Commission in the biennial report said shrinking space for civil society, a crackdown on freedom of expression, curtailing media freedom and impunity for crimes against journalists and human rights defenders are areas of serious concern. There is no legislative development on narrowing down the scope of the death penalty in line with the Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has been demonstrated. Tightened procedures for registration of INGOs (with domestic NGOs facing increasing pressure) and widespread violations of women’s, children’s and minority rights were documented during the reporting period. Enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings remain prevalent, it said.

“Legislative development to address this, such as criminalisation of enforced disappearances, would be a significant step forward,” it added. “Pakistan must demonstrate that it will concretely increase its efforts and take more proactive and sustained actions to implement legislation and to address problematic areas.”

The commission said the country needs to continue developing a strong and transparent institutional setup, which should translate its policies and legislation into concrete actions. “Also in line with the recommendations of UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies, strengthening the capacities of the National Commission for Human Rights, adopting legislation on criminalising torture and progress on the definition of the most serious crimes as regards the death penalty, should be pursued.”

The European Commission further said the country continues to face drug control challenges. “Plans to increase the country’sAnti Narcotics Force are welcome. However, further challenges remain in closing the routes for smuggling and enhancing cooperation within region.”The commission said labour rights on collective bargain, wage discrimination, and forced and bonded labour in agriculture and mining remain a matter of concern.

“Implementation and enforcement of laws and regulations continues to be a problem, although some provinces have stepped up efforts to improve enforcement,” it added. “Further efforts are needed to improve the labour inspection system and overall working conditions with enhanced number of labour inspectors in each province.”

The European Commission advised the Pakistani authorities to carry out child labour surveys, include bonded labour in labour force surveys, ensure proper investigations and prosecution of child and forced labour, trafficking and exploitation, ensure application of labour laws in export processing zones and special economic zones and align labour legislation with the International Labour Organization conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining.

“The labour inspection system is too weak to ensure its crucial function of proper enforcement and overseeing the application of labour laws and safety standards,” it said. “The number of labour inspectors is too low and they lack technical and other capacity to perform their tasks.”