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NCHR urges EU to continue Pakistan’s GSP+ status

December 22, 2015

Islamabad

The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has urged the European Union (EU) to continue Pakistan’s GSP+ status after first reviews in January 2016, as the scheme has been significantly contributing in country’s economy as well as serving as an international instrument for improvement in human rights situation in the country.

This demand has been made by NCHR Chairman Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan in a statement released from his office on Monday after his return from a week-long visit to Germany. Justice Chowhan who visited Germany for a week along with Zulfiqar Shah, Team Leader, Democracy Reporting International on an official visit to Germany said that during his visit, he met with high officials of both EU and government of Germany and called upon them for continuation of the GSP Plus scheme, which is of great benefit to Pakistan.

In January 2014, the European Union granted Pakistan the status of Generalized System of Preference Plus (GSP +) status for duty-free access to Pakistani products in European markets. GSP+ scheme, currently granted to 13 developing countries, is a trade preference scheme described as ‘Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance.’

The economic benefits of GSP + are highly significant as Pakistan’s exports to EU rose by 21 per cent in the first year of the scheme alone.

The GSP Plus mechanism is, however, an incentive mechanism for Pakistan to further democratic and human rights reforms. The preferential access to EU market is hence conditional to Pakistan maintaining ratification and effective implementation of the key international conventions concerning human rights, including civil and political rights, labour rights or environmental protection.

Justice Chowhan said that the main purpose of his visit to Germany was to introduce the newly established commission to counterparts in Germany and learn from German experience of achieving high degree of human rights, he sought support for continuation of GSP+ in key meetings.

The Pakistani delegation members had over a dozen meetings during their weeklong stay in Berlin that included meetings with German Commissioner for Human Rights, Inchrage for Pakistan affairs at Federal Foreign Office, Representative of European Commission in Germany, German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, German Ministry of Justice, Director German Institute of Human Rights, German Federal Bar, Members of German Parliament and civil society representatives.

Representative of European Commission in Germany told the visiting Pakistani delegation that the EU considers Pakistan an important partner and grant of GSP+ was reflection of the EU’s commitment to help Pakistan’s economy and democratic stability.

Pakistan’s first GSP+ review report is ready and will be tabled in the European Parliament early next month. Establishment of NCHR has already been acknowledged as an encouraging development; however, there are certain areas where the country needs to make significant improvements.

Justice Chowhan and Shah explained to the German officials that compliance to 27 conventions attached to GSP+ conditionality is a huge task and the Pakistan government has already started putting in place institutional mechanisms so it is important that more time is given for real change to happen. “There is a strong political will to improve human rights situation in the country and comply on the international obligations.”

German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) informed the visiting Pakistani delegation that Human Rights is a central point in German development cooperation. Germany is contributing Euros 50 million annually in development aid to Pakistan in the key priority areas of governance, devolution social economic and youth development.

The statement concludes with hope that the German government will support Pakistan in first review of GSP+ and other initiatives. Mr. Chairman also expressed his gratitude to the German warm hospitality shown during his visit.