Pakistan and EU to explore possibility of FTA: talks begin on October 20
ISLAMABAD (October 18 2009): Islamabad and the 27-member European Union, headquartered in Brussels, will start negotiations on a possible free trade agreement (FTA), an unfulfilled dream of Pakistan. A meeting between the Pakistani team and the EU officials on FTA is scheduled for October 20. The Commerce Secretary would represent Pakistan in the sub-group on trade, constituted in June at the summit, in which President Asif Ali Zardari represented Pakistan.
Official sources told Business Recorder on Saturday that Secretary Commerce Suleman Ghani had reached Geneva to participate in the weeklong meeting of senior officials of World Trade Organisation (WTO), started on Saturday.
He would represent Pakistan in a "dedicated" dialogue with the EU, approval of which has already been given by the Prime Minister. Sensing substantial progress in the meetings with the EU officials, the Commerce Ministry has decided to hire the services of a Europe-based international consultancy firm to provide support services relating to strengthening of its trade relations with the EU.
The selected firm will be required to provide a high level strategic and technical advice, capacity building assistance, legal representation, lobbying services and media representation. The sources said that European Union (EU) lobbying firm Alber and Geiger, comprising former high ranking officials, had already offered its services to facilitate Pakistan for a FTA and strengthening of Pakistan’s trade relations with the EU.
A summit on June 17 between the EU and Pakistan discussed strengthening of the EU-Pakistan partnership, regional political situation, global issues and the world economy. The EU granted Pakistan euro 120 million for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Furthermore, the EU declared that it would consider strengthening trade ties with Pakistan, including easing Pakistan’s access to the EU market.
"Our law firm is a specialised lobbying firm with representation in Brussels and Berlin, and we offer our services to you to help ensure that the EU should fulfill its promise," wrote Martin Gerig, an associate of the firm, in a letter to the Commerce Ministry.
Alber and Geiger claim it lobbies predominantly in EU institutions in Brussels and in all EU member states. The focus is not only on strictly legal expertise but also at political level as its partners and employees have long experience in public offices.
During the summit, the importance of a strong trading relationship between the EU and Pakistan were recognised. The EU and Pakistan will jointly work towards further liberalisation of trade in goods and services, with the aim of mutual enhancement of market access and convergence on regulatory matters.
It was agreed to set up a dedicated dialogue alongside existing working level contacts to enhance bilateral trade relationship, including a free trade agreement, and the EU also promised to continue to assist Pakistan to meet the EU’s sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements for fishery and other products. The sources said that Pakistan was expecting progress at the US-EU summit next month on Pakistan and Afghanistan, to be hosted by US President Barack Obama.