LONDON, (APP) – The British Prime Minister David Cameron is pressing the European Union to agree a new regime of trade concession to Pakistan to alleviate the damage done by flooding in the South Asian nation. According to a report in ‘The Guardian’ Cameron is determined to push the Pakistan emergency to the top of the agenda at the European Union Summit taking place in Brussels to alleviate Pakistan’s plight in the medium term.The report said Britain is keen to give Pakistan what is described as “enhanced access” to the EU markets to help stabilise the country in the wake of the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.Over the summer Cameron reached out to President Asif Ali Zardari by saying he would fight hard to give Islamabad preferential access to the EU.
A failure in the EU negotiations may harm Cameron’s attempts to soothe relations with Islamabad after he caused great offence by saying that Pakistan was exporting terrorism, the report added.
Cameron has written to Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, to call for “a concrete political commitment from the EU to Pakistan to enhance significantly its access to the EU market in the short term.”
In the letter, also sent to other European leaders, Cameron said: “I am absolutely convinced that we need to agree a significant measure on trade which delivers greater market access in the short term.”
Senior British diplomats argued that the scale of the Pakistani crisis meant that it was the most pressing issue for the summit, although Van Rompuy barely mentioned Pakistan in outlining his plans for the meeting.
The paper said the British push for trade privileges for Islamabad will be resisted by the EU countries with big textile industries that fear having their markets flooded with cheap goods from the region. At least four countries, including Portugal, Italy and France, are reluctant to give trade privileges.
“There are problems getting them on board. Each option is complicated,” admitted a senior British diplomat. “There is a risk of raising this as an objective and failing to deliver.”
The concessions to Pakistan could entail reducing tariffs on its exports or the EU suspending the tariffs unilaterally, but, apart from opposition within the EU, this could also run into problems with the World Trade Organisation. The EU has already committed more than 191 million pounds in emergency aid and flood relief to Pakistan, with the UK the biggest single EU national contributor at around 64 million pounds.
The paper noted that Brussels is planning a five-year “engagement plan” with Pakistan, but Cameron insisted that the EU must do more. “We should go beyond that to set out an ambitious new partnership on serious economic reform and trade, the benefits of which will be worth more to Pakistan than even a sizeable aid package.” – App