BY GHULAM ABBAS
The much awaited trade concessions package offered by European Union (EU) has stumbled again at World Trade Organisation (WTO), with Bangladesh now opposing the facility for Pakistan.
Shocked by Dhaka
Pakistan, which was expecting the approval of the “two years unilateral tariff concession” package proposed for Pakistan on almost 75 items to be exported to EU, after the Indian announcement to withdraw its objection over the facility, was shocked when Dhaka opposed the bill in the session of council for trade in goods of WTO held on November 7. In the recently held WTO meeting in Geneva, Bangladesh has opposed the move through a short statement that implied it had some concerns over the trade facility. Bangladesh, which also exports textile items to European countries, stood to oppose the unilateral concession proposed by EU to Pakistani textile makers as an aid measure following the devastative flood in the South Asian country last year. It is worth mentioning here that EU had announced concessions for Pakistan on 75 tariff lines on September 16, 2010, which were subject to the WTO wavier. But the concession package faced repeated objections raised by India in the international organisation. “It was much unexpected” said Mohsin Aziz, Chairman All Pakistan Textile Mills Association while talking to Profit on Wednesday, adding that objections raised by Dhaka were not justified as the country’s exports would not be affected by the limited package offered to Islamabad on humanitarian grounds.
Bangladesh, which has exported textile items worth $10 billion during the previous financial year – as compared to over $1 billion worth of textile related exports from Pakistan – would not be affected by the expected increase of $2 billion to $3 billion share of Pakistan in the $80 billion EU market. “As Bangladesh has already been given the Least Developed Country (LDC) status on humanitarian basis under which its exports are expected to be over $15 billion during current financial year, Dhaka should not object the limited trade package also offered on humanitarian ground,” Mohsin said. Negating the perception that Bangladesh competes with Pakistan for textiles sales to the European market, the APTMA Chairman said under the special facility, available under the umbrella of LDC and other positive aspects like lower cost of doing business in Dhaka, Bangladesh had no competition with Pakistan in the European textile markets.
One stumbling block after another
He said as the next session of WTO was scheduled for November 30, the government should take the issue seriously and hold talks with the Bangladeshi government before the meeting in order to approve the much delayed facility.
EU proposed trade preferences for Pakistani textile makers were opposed at the time when both the Union and Pakistan expected its approval from WTO. Following that, the Indian objection was considered the only stumbling block in the way of the trade facility. But unexpectedly a Bangladeshi complaint effectively halted progress yet again, seemingly out of the blue. However, sources in the ministry of commerce said Islamabad would discuss the issue with Bangladeshi officials and it was expected that the matter would be resolved before the next session.
NOVEMBER 9, 2011