Least developed countries benefited most from EU duty-rebate schemes

Civil society activists carry placards during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, 29 May 2014, against the killing of Farzana Iqbal who was stoned to death by her family for marrying against their wish. EU engagement helped Pakistan adopt new legislation against honour killing and rape. [T.Mughal/EPA]

A report published today (19 January) by the European Commission and the European External Action Service shows the positive impact of the European Union’s duty-rebate schemes on developing economies, including human rights improvements.

Since the reformed EU initiative known as the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) entered into force in 2014, exports to the EU from countries benefiting from these tariff cuts rose by nearly a quarter to a yearly amount of €63 billion.

Least developed countries benefited the most: their exports to the EU increased by nearly 40% and reached €23.5 billion in 2016, according to the 19-page report.

Development ministers upgrade the ‘aid for trade’ strategy

Development ministers on Monday (11 December) discussed and adopted conclusions on the updated strategy on aid for trade, which aims to improve the integration of developing countries into the international trading system and to enable commerce and investment to contribute to reducing poverty.

The GSP is the EU’s main trade instrument to support developing countries. It consists of three different arrangements to grant privileged access to the EU market, designed to take into account the different needs of beneficiary countries:

  • The standard GSP scheme reduces EU import duties for around 66% of all product categories in 23 countries;
  • GSP+, or Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance, removes customs duties for two thirds of products coming from 10 other vulnerable countries (Armenia, Bolivia, Cabo Verde, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines and Sri Lanka) that committed to apply 27 international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental protection and good governance;
  • “Everything But Arms” (EBA) removes customs duties for nearly all products coming from 49 least developed countries.

The report points out the progress made on issues such as women’s empowerment, child and forced labour, torture, illegal drugs trafficking and climate change. The EU monitoring reveals many positive changes due to EU engagement related to the scheme.

Among many other examples, this includes Pakistan’s new legislation against honour killing and rape, and the inclusion of Paraguay on the list of countries with the strongest commitment to the protection of endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

But the report points also to areas that require further improvement, for instance, the implementation and enforcement of relevant legislation by the beneficiary countries.

A separate document accompanying the report provides a detailed overview of progress and remaining shortcomings, specifically in the countries participating in GSP+.

The report also shows the increased involvement of civil society in the monitoring of the scheme.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said that through GSP the EU has contributed to the strengthening of civil society and independent voices and to the better protection of human rights through national legislation in partner countries.

GPS+ has apparently been such a success that Pakistan asked for a GPS+ trade deal with Britain after Brexit.

Pakistani minister: We want a ‘GSP-Plus’ trade deal with Brexit Britain

EXCLUSIVE / Pakistani Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan told EURACTIV.com that the UK leaving the EU was a “tremendous loss” for Pakistan’s dealings with Brussels, and that he would like a GSP-Plus deal with post-Brexit Britain.