KARACHI (NNI) - President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to visit Brussels on June 16 to advocate market access for Pakistans textiles to the European Union (EU) market. According to sources, the President will persuade the EU to award GSP Plus status to Pakistan and consequently allow zero duty on Pakistani exports to European countries. It is important to note that Federal Advisor on Textiles, Dr Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, has prepared a study on the duty free access for Pakistan to the EU, which states that most of the countries (nearly all) exporting to the EU are enjoying GSP treatment of their exports. GSP is a slightly lower rate of duty than the regular duty. If Pakistan is given the zero duty status, its exports to the EU may increase from the current volume of around 7 to 10 billion dollars to about 15 to 20 billion or even to the range of 25-30 billion dollars. It is not an extra-ordinary burden for the EU considering that the total imports of the EU are over $800 billion, the study said. The study further points out that the EU can give a zero duty status to Pakistan with a limit, which will go away, if Pakistans current exports increase three fold. Pakistan can earn this status like the countries currently having exports less than one per cent of the total EU imports (excluding oil) that qualify for GSP Plus. Pakistans exports stands around 1-1.5 per cent. This threshold for qualification of GSP Plus should be increased to 3 per cent plus a period of 3 to 4 years to sign/ratify the required international treaties/conventions, while granting GSP Plus status immediately, in compliance with WTOs zero duty obligations. An analysis made in 2005 showed that if the threshold was increased from 1 per cent to 2 per cent, only two additional countries would have to be added in the GSP Plus including Pakistan and Vietnam. The study noted the irony that comparing July 2005 or January 2006 (when Pakistans textiles de-graduated was enforced 9.5 percent GSP duties), to the year 2004, Pakistan is the only country, whose zero duty status in the EU was eliminated, while many countries that were not given zero duty in 2004 (Sri Lanka), are now allowed the status. This implies that the EU has withdrawn its support for Pakistans economy. The study also observed that the European Commission went out of the way to argue the case for India with the member states, to get GSP status for the country, which some of the EU countries were objecting to. Approval of GSP Plus for Pakistan will be a litmus test for the European Union as Pakistan is passing through a difficult period due to the October 2005 earthquake and the ongoing war on terror.