By Roy Lie Atjam
The Pakistan Federal Minister for Commerce and Investment H.E. Syed Naveed Qamar visited the Netherlands on 24th May 2022. He underscored the longstanding friendly and cooperative relations with the Netherlands and wishes to strengthen and diversify bilateral trade and economic linkages in the years ahead.
Bilateral economic relations between Pakistan and the Netherlands have been consistently on upward trajectory, a reaffirmation that came from Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Commerce and Investment, Syed Naveed Qamar and Mr. Paul Huijts, Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands after their meeting in the Hague to discuss the new GSP+ scheme.
The Minister held meetings with the GSP+ stakeholders including Dutch officials, businesses, trade bodies and civil society organisations. The visit was part of Pakistan’s campaign to sensitise the stakeholders in EU member states about the milestones achieved by Pakistan in implementation of conventions under the GSP+ obligations.
Minister Qamar highlighted that the GSP Plus was an excellent template and a success story of mutually beneficial cooperation as EU exports to Pakistan have grown by 69% whereas Netherlands’ exports to Pakistan have grown by 107% since the grant of GSP+ in 2014. Pakistan’s exports to EU have grown by 86% whereas exports to the Netherlands have grown by 108% in the meantime. He expressed the hope that the new GSP Plus regulation would continue to focus on its central tenets of supporting sustainable development, poverty alleviation and good governance in the beneficiary countries.
The Minister underscored that Pakistan and the Netherlands enjoyed excellent relations, which were based on mutual respect, trust, and common interests. He emphasised that strong trade and investment cooperation were important components of Pakistan-Netherlands bilateral relations. The Netherlands is the second largest trade partner of Pakistan in EU and a key investor in various sectors of Pakistan.
Mr. Paul Huijts appreciated the positive trajectory in the overall bilateral relations, including substantial growth in bilateral trade. Mr. Huijts also thanked Pakistan for its support and facilitation for the Netherlands’ evacuation operation from Afghanistan.
Later, Minister Syed Naveed Qamar addressed a seminar, attended by Dutch businesses, investors, trade associations, Civil Society / Non-Governmental Organisations and the Netherlands-based Pakistanis importing from Pakistan. He apprised the audience of key achievements made in implementing GSP Plus requirements. He also spoke broadly about the trade and investment opportunities and possible avenues for collaboration between the Dutch and Pakistani businesses.
The Minister apprised his audience of sensitivities and the challenges likely to be faced by any developing country like Pakistan with regards to new GSP+ scheme replacing the existing one, spanning from 2024 to 2034. “There is no lack of sincerity in implementing GSP+ related conventions on part of Pakistan.” the Minister reiterated. “Three successful biennial reviews are a testimony to the fact that Pakistan has made huge strides in meeting its human rights, governance, and environment related obligations.”
The Minister was of the view that while designing new scheme, capacity of the developing countries must be borne in mind. Moreover, GSP+ is a development assistance tool; hence it should not turn into a commerce restrictive at the end. Improvement in human rights, governance, environment, and socio-economic uplift of masses are the common goals achieved through GSP+ which must be preserved rather stalling further progress in these areas.
Concluding the session, the Minister invited the Dutch companies to explore business opportunities in Pakistan in agriculture, dairy, water management, maritime and clean energy. The Minister also responded to various queries from the audience.
Apart from the Netherlands, Minister Syed Naveed Qamar went on to visit major EU capitals of Berlin, Brussels and Paris where he met his counterparts.
Minister Syed Naveed Qamar met with the media and briefed them about the targets his visit achieved.