“European Union’s GSP Plus Regime”, a policy brief published by the Research Society of International Law, Pakistan in February 2014 aims to provide the Federal Government of Pakistan, its relevant ministries and all other relevant stakeholders with information on what has been achieved thus far pertaining to compliance with the relevant international agreements, and what still remains to be done. The policy brief can inform legislative decision-making, regulatory initiatives and business decisions geared to allow Pakistan to take full advantage of its position vis-à-vis the preferential regime accorded by the EU’s GSP plus scheme.
Pakistan has been granted GSP plus status till 2017, which will serve as the impetus for bolstering Pakistan’s economy which faces a myriad of challenges, ranging from national security threats to the energy crisis. The special incentive arrangement aims to facilitate the economic growth of Pakistan by reducing tariffs on products which enter EU’s markets. It will allow approximately 20 per cent of Pakistan exports to enter the EU market at zero tariff and 70 per cent at preferential rates. It is estimated that this arrangement will help Pakistani exports rise up to 2 billion dollars.
GSP plus will no doubt usher in a new era of economic growth for Pakistan, however, Pakistan has to fulfill certain commitments under international agreements in order to retain the benefit of holding the GSP plus status for the next 10 years. A focal requirement of the EU regulation requires Pakistan to ratify and effectively implement 27 international Conventions. The various Conventions deal with human rights issues, labour rights and environmental standards broadly. These Conventions have been ratified by Pakistan, however some of these Conventions have not been implemented effectively. Furthermore, reporting and compliance mechanisms need to be invigorated.
Article 9 of the EU Regulation sets forth the criteria for a country for attaining the benefit of of holding the GSP plus status. It elucidates that a country may benefit from the status if the monitoring bodies under those Conventions do not identify a serious failure to effectively implement any of those Conventions. Furthermore, the country must not have made any reservations which are contrary to the aim and purpose of the international agreements. Additionally, it has to abide by the binding undertaking to maintain ratification of the relevant Conventions and to ensure the effective implementation thereof.
It is imperative to note that Sri Lanka in 2010 lost its GSP Plus status due to significant shortcomings in respect of its implementation of human rights Conventions. Therefore, the fulfillment criterion for compliance is stringent. After the 18th constitutional amendment, Ministries have been devolved to the provinces. Federal laws will only apply to the said province till the time that provincial laws are enacted. This creates an environment of ambiguity, especially when compliance with 27 Conventions is a necessary condition for retaining the GSP plus status.
In light of the above, this policy brief examines what the aims and objectives of Conventions/protocols are and whether Pakistan has made any reservations with regard to any of them. This policy brief has been divided into different themes, i.e. Conventions pertaining to environmental standards, narcotics control, human rights, labour laws and good governance.
In order to gauge the extent of implementation of these Conventions, an exercise was carried out to determine what legislative instruments/policies have been enacted federally and/or provincially. This exercise involved assessing which ministry at the Federal level is responsible for overseeing the compliance with the international agreements. Lastly, the measures that need to be taken in order to ensure compliance were also highlighted.