WTO approves two-year trade waiver for Pakistan
(GENEVA) - The World Trade Organization approved a waiver on Wednesday allowing 75 Pakistani products duty free access to European markets for two years to help textile exports after devastating floods in 2010.
"This waiver is unprecedented. This shows the human face of the WTO. The Pakistani people have faith in the multi-lateral trade system," Shahid Bashir, Pakistan's ambassador to the international trade body told, AFP.
Trade officials said the EU is Pakistan's largest trading partner, receiving almost 30 percent of its exports -- worth almost 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion).
Pakistan's trade with the EU consists mainly of textiles, which account for more than 70 percent of its exports to European countries.
The products chose for the waiver would amount to around 900 million euros in import value, accounting for about 27 percent of EU imports from Pakistan.
The WTO has not in the past offered such special trade terms to one member, but the EU requested it due to Pakistan's exceptional circumstances following the floods in the south Asian country.
Bashir said the agreement on textiles, leather goods and industrial alcohol could boost Pakistan's exports by 15 to 20 percent.
"We are very happy about the agreement," he said that had come after 18 months of wrangling.
The deal faced delays over objections raised by countries such as Argentina, Brazil, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
To allay their opposition to the waiver, the list includes 20 products with tariff rate quotas that will be applied instead of full liberalisation.
Bangladesh, which also relies heavily on textile exports, relented as it viewed the circumstances for the agreement as exceptional.
The waiver needs to be ratified at the general council meeting of the WTO on February 14 and 15 and if approved will apply until the end of 2013.
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