Saturday, September 13, 2003

EU to increase textile imports from Pakistan

By Shadaba Islam

LUXEMBOURG, Oct 29: The European Union is sticking to plans to increase textile and clothing imports from Pakistan as of January 1, 2002 despite objections raised by Portugal and Spain, EU trade chief Pascal Lamy said on Monday.

"We will ensure that necessary decisions are taken so that trade opportunities for Pakistan start next year," Lamy said following talks with EU foreign ministers.

"We do not expect a delay in our legislative procedure which requires approval of the EU textile plan by all 15 EU governments and the European Parliament," Lamy said.

The EU trade chief insisted that the textile deal with Pakistan was based on "reciprocal access," with Pakistan committed to lowering its tariffs on EU imports in exchange for increased market opportunities in the Union.

Asked if the agreement with Pakistan could become a model for other textile-exporting countries including India, Lamy said: "No agreement is a precedent."

Portugal has voiced worries that the expected rise in Pakistani exports of textile and clothing could hurt its domestic textile sector.

European textile exporters are also up in arms against Lamy's "Trade for Peace" package and have accused the trade commissioner of turning his back on the European textile sector.

"This is a flagrant example of European textile and clothing interests being sacrificed to serve a wider purpose," said a statement issued by Euratex which lobbies for the European textile industry.

Instead of market-opening measures which will provoke job losses in Europe, Euratex said the EU should give Pakistan 3 euros per head of the EU population.

EU diplomats admit that the resistance from Portugal and Spain runs counter to recent EU promises to help Pakistan cope with the economic and political fall-out from the United States military action in Afghanistan. But they remain confident that the opposition can be overcome, possibly through a move to give special assistance to Portugal's textile sector.

Lamy's proposals call for the elimination of all European Union tariffs of Pakistani garments and textiles and a 15 per cent increase in Pakistan's textile quotas.

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