ISLAMABAD - The European Union's trade package for Pakistan to provide unilateral market access to Islamabad at zero duty would provide extra market access in 27 countries of the EU and estimated additional market access is likely to exceed $500 million per annum.

After developing consensus by the Council on Trade in Goods of the WTO, the request of the European Union to provide unilateral market access to Pakistan at zero duty was forwarded by the Committee to the General Council for approval of the draft decision.

In its meeting on 14th February, the General Council of the WTO unanimously approved the draft decision according to which the EU is now authorized to provide trade concessions to Pakistan on 75 products.

Twenty products of the package are subject to tariff rate quotas (TRQs) and will be eligible for import into EU duty free up to a specified quantitative limit. The TRQs were worked out by taking an average of Pakistan's exports into EU during 2008, 2009 and 2010 plus 20 per cent. 

The products included for market access on the basis of TRQs include ethyl alcohol, some types of cotton yarn and cotton woven fabrics, trousers, stockings, ladies garments, toilet linen and kitchen linen and footwear.

Besides, many types of woven fabrics, gloves, T-shirts, tracksuits, curtains, floor cloths, made-up articles of textile material etc. would be importable from Pakistan to the EU without any quota and free of duty.

The process will now move from Geneva to Brussels where the European Parliament and Council will jointly consider the terms of the WTO waiver and give final approval to the enabling EU Regulation as per the co-decision procedure, which will incorporate rules of origin and other usual conditions applicable to GSP imports by the EU.

As per this WTO decision the waiver will be effective for two years from 1st January 2012 to 31st December 2013. Therefore by implication import duties paid after 1st January 2012 would be refundable unless the final EU Regulation specifies otherwise.

The package would help to revive a large number of factories which are not producing to their optimum capacity at present.