EU likely to offer trade-linked aid to Pakistan

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Brussels, Sept 12 (ANI): Diplomatic sources have said that Europe is likely to offer trade-linked aid to Pakistan in the wake of the devastation caused by floods and rising terrorism in the country at an EU summit next week.

Hosting a two-day informal parley of foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc, High Representative of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, said that Pakistan needed support ranging through aid, institution-building, anti-terror assistance, reconstruction and trade, the Dawn reports.

"It is in the vital strategic interest of the European Union to help Pakistan in the long term with trade," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

"If we want to stabilise Pakistan, so that it doesn't degenerate into extremism and fundamentalism, we have to address the economic consequences of this natural catastrophe," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

EU leaders would have three choices to ease Pakistani goods into Europe -offering duty-free access on some goods, deciding a unilateral waiver with WTO agreement, or lowering Most Favoured Nation tariff on some products.

According to an EU source, the list of product areas qualifying for exemptions was drawn up, aiming to provide about 25 million euros of annual benefits to Pakistan.

However, a European association of textile producers (Euratex) resisted to the idea of preferential treatment to Pakistan.

The "Pakistani government is (repeatedly) using all sorts of excuses to demand free access to the EU market," citing the "fight against terrorism, economic crisis and now the floods," Euratex told EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht last week.

It pointed out that Pakistan was "already a major world player" on par with India or China, and warned that unilateral EU moves "will certainly be attacked" in the WTO and could "seriously jeopardise" negotiations on a free-trade deal with New Delhi. (ANI)

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