Pakistan and WTO
November 18, 2011
Bangladesh, which constituted as the erstwhile Eastern part of Pakistan has once again betrayed Pakistan, by voting against flood-devastated Pakistan’s entry into WTO (World Trade Organization), thus blocking its crucial trade facilities. On the other hand the archrival, warring India abided by its promise to back Pakistan and voted in its favor. In the post 07 Nov 2011 scenario, Bangladesh’s support was being eagerly anticipated, but Bangladesh crashed all these hopes of Pakistan and a hopeful EU by announcing in a Geneva meeting that it had severe reservations over granting trade concession to Pakistan for EU.
Actually Bangladesh is deeply apprehensive of losing its market in EU, by permitting EU trade concessions for Pakistan. Earlier EU had announced waiving of duties on 75 textile products of Pakistan, but final approval is nevertheless subject to the approval of all member countries. Previously India had been traditional opposing this incentive for Pakistan, but it had backed out of its traditional opposition in sheer gratitude after being granted the status of MFN (Most Favoured Nation) by Pakistan. This was an unfortunate, if not an unexpected move by what was an erstwhile Eastern part of Pakistan. All this state of affairs has compounded problems of flood stricken Pakistan, whose appeal for U$.357 million has netted less than 1/3rd of the promised amount.
Pakistan’s approval by EU would not have affected Bangladesh, as much as Bangladesh might have anticipated, while it would also had minimized any economic woes and miseries of Pakistan. However Pakistan should not take it as a serious setback and carry its efforts of increasing its trade quota; while on its part EU should also ensure its fulfilling its promises to help ameliorate the plight of flood affectees, by donating as generously as possible. The president of Pakistan-Norway political club, Shahid Mahmood has expressed his deepest regrets over this expected ingratitude of Bangladesh, which shows that it still dislikes Pakistan. All this in face of full support by Pakistan to Bangladesh on such forums as UN, OIC, SAARC and Cricket World Cup.
Three important analysis regarding this reaction of Bangladesh regarding the issue of blocking EU trade for Pakistan, thus creating problems for flood crisis have also surfaced, recently. One of these is that pro-Indian government of Awami Muslim League led by Sheikh Haseena Wajid, has always backed India, while strongly opposing Pakistan; the recent example being this opposition on the forum of WTO, under the excuse that the package would hurt Bangladesh economy. This is quite a setback for Pakistan, as during the earlier such effort of trying to win the EU package, the ambassadors of India, China, Bangladesh and other member states had fully supported Pakistan’s stance, to assist Pakistan’s flood affectees despite their strong reservations of ‘terrorism within Pakistan’. Earlier India had opposed Pakistan, while Bangladesh had favored support for Pakistan, but strategic analysists have accused India of manipulating Bangladesh into this, as despite being according the MFN status by Pakistan, there has been no let down in Indian machinations.
The trade package being envisioned by EU for flood devastated Pakistan included minimizing various duties on textile imports from Pakistan and also increase the import quota; an issue which was foiled by Bangladesh, despite the fact that even Bangladeshi media sources like Itefaq and Independent issued on 02nd November 2011 had reported that Pakistani government wanted better relations with Bangladesh. The Bangla media sources also report that Pakistani High Commissioner Afrasayab Qurieshi had publicly declared enhancing mutual trade relations between two nations, requesting Bangladesh to render its due support in the endeavors. Bangladeshi traders were also issued invitations to participate in the 09th - 11th Dec Bhuran conference, but all these efforts fell to naught due to Bangladeshi intransigence, which had tacit, and discrete backing of India.
Chinese and Indian trade analysists agree that the Bangladesh textile industry, with its cheaper produced goods were a big competitive problem for such competing giants as Pakistan, China, Sri-Lanka and India. Accordingly India had also impressed the fact on Pakistan that if Pakistan wanted relaxing within WTO regime, it would have to hard press its endeavors to declare India as MFN. Diplomatic circles of Pakistan have claimed to be monitoring / evaluating the situation carefully, and were also endeavoring to resolve the crisis through talks, because this particular EU package is expected to be quite important for Pakistan’s economy. The devastations caused by floods, which include destruction of crops, livestock, energy and other developmental infrastructure are being monitored /evaluated on annual basis. This has been also compounded by morbid corruption. However despite all these heavy odds the policy makers are optimist that they would be able to convince and remove reservations of Bangladesh as such.
Assured of having the EU trade package being approved, the Pakistani export quota for EU could swell by 100%, ameliorating its economic woes. It is also pertinent to consider the friendly and humane support of EU, for Pakistan, in the wake of 2010 floods; as EU had also lessened duties on 75 of Pakistan’s textile products. A European trade package was also granted for coping with Sind floods of 2011, but this is restrained by the condition of WTO, that all member states should approve. Bangladesh could never acquiesce to this facility for Pakistan, over its own considerations.