Daily Times | Friday, May 25, 2007
EC rules out Pak-EU FTA in near future
By Sajid Chaudhry
ISLAMABAD: The European Commission on Thursday ruled out the possibility of a Pak-EU FTA in the near future and said that this requires a detailed review and better understanding of the proposal.
However, Pakistan has requested the European Commission to provide duty free market access to the goods manufactured in Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs), which are being established in tribal areas by the United States.
At the conclusion of the Pakistan-European Commission Joint Commission’s first meeting here James Moran, Director Asia and Head of Delegation and Akram Malik, Secretary Economic Affairs Division announced the outcome of the meeting in a joint press conference. James Moran said that the EC has increased the cooperation grants from 15 million euros to an average of 50 million euros per annum for improvement of education, and human resources, rural development, trade and trade related matters.
He said that the EC delegation has also briefed Pakistan side on other funding available to Pakistan under regional programmes for aid in the fields of scientific and technological research, higher education, energy, environment and regional cooperation.
Replying to a question on the ban on Pakistan International Airline’s flights to European destination, James Moran said this is purely an air safety issue and the ban does not cover the whole of PIA fleet, but some of its aircrafts. Pakistan has put in place a recovery plan and hoped that further dialogue on this issue keeping in view the recovery plan would resolve the matter soon.
Answering another question on the EU ban on import of fish from Pakistan, he said that there are health and safety issue.
He said Pakistan is the EU’s major trading partner and among top ten beneficial of its Generalised System of Preferences regime. “We have reached an understanding on expansion of bilateral trade,” he said, adding: “Although Pakistan has desired to move ahead on the FTA front but an understanding is required on some related issues. This understanding would further improve in months to come during further dialogue, but for now it is too early to think about the FTA.”
He said it’s our common desire to translate the friendship and goodwill between our peoples into expanded and multifaceted relationship to our mutual benefit. We would like to give new impetus to our economic and commercial ties and our cooperation on a broad range of areas of mutual interest, he said.
Akram Malik said that bilateral trade and the trade related issues are of great significance for both sides. We have agreed to expand trade relations and work towards removal of impediments in bilateral trade. The sub-group on trade has agreed to monitor the impact of trade policy in the region on Pakistan’s preferential access to European markets and would identify possible options for improvement in bilateral trade. In this regard a study would be carried out on the impact of trade policy in consultation with Pakistan.
Both sides have agreed that Joint Commission is an effective instrument to explore opportunities for mutual interest of both partners and expressed their sincere hope that the first meeting of JC would become a milestone in the development of cooperation and economic and trade relations between two sides. Both sides have also agreed to the formation of four sub-groups to carry forward the dialogue under the Partnership and Development Cooperation Agreement and report back to the joint commission, he added.