On 16 February, the Committee on International Trade (INTA) and the Subcommittee for Human Rights (DROI) of the European Parliament held a hearing to take stock of the functioning of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences and the GSP+ system --zero duties for imports into the EU-- in place for more than two years.
Alongside the EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström the speakers included the chairperson of each committee, the ambassadors of the GSP+ countries, including Mongolia and Pakistan, representatives of non-governmental organisations as well as Stefan Wengler, FTA Senior Advisor Customs and Procedures as a representative for the importing trade. All participants perceived the revised GSP+ system as a good instrument for improving social and environmental standards in supplier countries. The Ambassador of Pakistan pointed out that his country was practically still in a state of war so it was more difficult to ensure strict compliance with the GSP+ criteria. However, they would do everything possible to continue benefiting from GSP+ in the future.
Mr. Wengler highlighted the successful implementation of the revised GSP / GSP+ system two years ago, due to the careful preparation of the new scheme by the Commission and the national customs authorities. At the same time he underlined that GSP+ required a long-term approach to ensure sustainable results. It would not make sense that a country under investigation could already foresee when it would be withdrawn its GSP+ status due to exceeding the relevant income limit. Apart from raising the relevant per capita income, account should also be taken of the equality of income distribution before withdrawing the GSP+ status from a country.
In conclusion, the representative of the EU Commission highlighted once more that the EU would actively work towards improving the situation in the beneficiary countries. With regard to Pakistan, a withdrawal of GSP+ preferences would only be considered as ultima ratio which may be the case in 2018 at the earliest.
Provided that the country in question has met the stringent criteria required to be afforded GSP status, the FTA will continue to support proposals to add that country to the list that benefit from that status.