EU’s non-binding motion vs Pakistan
THE European Parliament last Thursday adopted a non-binding resolution calling for a review of trade relations with Pakistan and ending its eligibility for the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) status.
The resolution linked the review to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, in particular the case of Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel, who have been on death row since 2014 for sending ‘blasphemous’ text messages — a charge they deny.
Yet pragmatically, the EU’s decision making institution must display a cautious approach vis-à-vis the GSP+ review regarding Pakistan, a developing economy.
The foreign ministry in Islamabad released a statement expressing the government’s disappointment at the European resolution, saying it “reflects a lack of understanding in the context of blasphemy laws and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan — and in the wider Muslim world”.
What strange most of the Pakistani is the fact instead of calling a resolution on promoting interfaith dialogue-the crying need of the present times, the EU Parliament has shown the reactive diplomacy on such a sensitive issue—heartening the sentiments of the Muslim community at large.
EU’s non-binding resolution is a written motion adopted by a deliberative body that cannot progress into a law.
The substance of the resolution can be anything that can normally be proposed as a motion.
The said resolution consists of some important clauses: (F). Whereas, despite the very recent ban on the extremist religious party Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), the Pakistani Minister of the Interior announced on 20 April 2021 that a resolution on the expulsion of the French ambassador to Pakistan would be presented to the National Assembly, even though Prime Minister Imran Khan had spoken out the day before against this removal; (G).
Whereas since 01 January 2014 Pakistan benefits from generous tariff preferences under the so-called EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), under the condition that Pakistan effectively implements 27 core international conventions, including human rights conventions’’
As for the EU’s trade policy, this argument holds much appeal that in the given exigencies entailed by evolving and uncertain trade context, the EU has to reposition itself, adapting its trade and external policies to better pursue its economic interests, but also to achieve its political, geostrategic, developmental, environmental, and principles-based objectives in its pursuit of non-trade policy objectives relating to standards, values, sustainability and development, particularly its contributing and encouraging role in boosting developing economies
Since 1 January 2014, Pakistan is a beneficiary to the European Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which is approaching to its mid-term of ten years in 2018.
In this perspective, this work aims to gain an understanding of Pakistan’s trade performance under the GSP+.
It explores as to how macro-economic variables as well as internal and external factors affect the environment within which the trade takes place
The GSP+ award is concomitant with effective implementation of international conventions on human and labour rights, governance and environment protection ratified by Pakistan.
Linkage of trade incentives with the conventions is aimed to promote sustainable development and good governance by utilizing enhanced export opportunities.
The increased exports and profits of the industry players substantiate that the GSP+ offers an opportunity to utilize the linkages of the export-oriented industry for inclusive development. Hence, greater transparency and a shared vision for sustainable production is emphasized.
The opportunities and obligations deriving from the EU’s engagement with Pakistan in GSP+ form an integral part of EU-Pakistan relations.
The new EU-Pakistan Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP), signed on 25 June 2019, provides an overall framework of bilateral engagement and prominently addresses GSP+ in the chapters of Democracy, Rule of Law, Good Governance, and Human Rights, as well as Trade and Investment, demonstrating the crosscutting relevance of the scheme On 18 February 2021, the European Commission set out its new trade strategy for the coming years.
Reflecting the concept of ‘Open Strategic Autonomy’, it builds on the EU’s openness to contribute to the economic recovery by supporting the green and digital transformations.
The strategy includes a renewed focus on strengthening multilateralism and reforming global trade rules to ensure that they are fair and sustainable.
Where necessary, the EU will take a more assertive stance in defending its interests and values, including through new tools.
The EU is a major player in the global T&C trade – the largest importer with a share of 22 per cent and the second largest exporter with 25 per cent share in the exports. Pakistan is amongst the top ten exporters of the T&C in the global market.
The textiles industry is a key sector for Pakistan’s economy.13 it contributes 25 per cent to industrial value-added and provides employment to about 40 per cent of the industrial labor force.
As a long-standing proponent of multilateralism, the EU has an important role to play in providing leadership to strengthen existing and building new alliances to defend the rules-based trading system.
This entails active support for WTO reform, including addressing the stalemate that has emerged in dispute settlement, and tackling up front a range of issues that give rise to negative spillover effects, including industrial subsidies.
Although the European Commission and EU member States have strong geopolitical reasons behind this move against Pakistan ,nonetheless, geopolitical concerns have no place in the GSP+ process.
The regulations governing the GSP+ process do not allow for such geopolitical concerns.
The adoption of resolution by the EU parliament shows the mindset of the EU countries, but it is not binding on the authorities to consider reviewing GSP Plus facility. Resolution can only come when the EU engages more fully with transnational law.
Objectively, decision-making of EU Institutions offers new insights into jurisdictional, substantive and argumentative problems evolving at transnational levels and their recursive impact on national democracies and the EU’s legal system.
In the post-Covid 19 global order, such kind of proposed economic sanctions cannot be imposed on the basis of religious discrimination.
Should not the current move be attributed to the European display of Islamophobia? In this backdrop, the role to be played by the European Commission and EU’s External Relations Service seems very instrumental.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.