GENEVA — European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to give Pakistan increased market access through a “time-limited” reduction in tariffs on key product categories as part of a support package to help the country recover from the summer’s devastating floods.
The pending agreement would involve suspending tariffs on about a dozen major textile and apparel products from Pakistan worth about 231 million euros, or $300 million, annually.
The decision, agreed to in Brussels, calls on the European Commission — the executive arm of the 27-member-nation bloc — to explore additional aid options with World Trade Organization partners and present its final proposal in October. Key Pakistani textile exports, including cotton yarn and fabrics, are among the products being examined, EU diplomats said.
WTO diplomats expressed optimism about securing the necessary support if the waiver is for a short duration and the request is limited to products that would not adversely impact other traditional exporters to the EU.
Diplomatic sources said if Brussels moves fast and files its waiver request with the WTO, member nations could be in a position to give the green light as soon as the next session of the WTO’s ruling General Council on Oct. 21.
EU leaders also agreed Thursday to seek to make Pakistan eligible for GSP Plus trade status by 2014, provided it meets the necessary criteria related to improving adherence to core labor standards and human rights norms. Under GSP Plus, eligible products can benefit from duty free access for emerging economies.