LAHORE - As the European Parliament is all set to vote today on whether or not to grant GPS plus status to Pakistan, Punjab Governor Ch Muhammad Sarwar, currently visiting European countries, has written a letter to all 766 members of the European Parliament (MEPs), giving the rationale for granting tax-free access to Pakistan to their markets.

International Trade Committee of European Parliament has already approved the Single Delegated Act aimed at giving greater trade access to 10 countries, including Pakistan, under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP Plus). Other countries are Armenia, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Georgia, Mongolia, Paraguay and Peru.

Besides writing to the MEPs for their support, Governor Sarwar also met some influential members of the EU Parliament in Germany on Wednesday. They included David Martin, Sajjad Karim, Glenis Willmot, Timothy Kirkhope, Christopher Fjellner and Baroness Sarah Ludford.

If the EU Parliament approves the Act today, it will come into effect from January 1, 2014. It is expected that GSP+ status will boost country’s exports, help revive the economy by creating more jobs and enable the government to spend more on education, welfare and social services.

Punjab governor is using his influence over MEPs for success of the vigorous campaign the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Embassies in Europe have launched to convince the EU governments and MEPs in Pakistan’s bid to attain the EU’s special status.

In his letter to the MEPs, the governor has pleaded that granting of GSP+ status to Pakistan will be quite instrumental in enabling Pakistan government to achieving its long-term goals of stabilising economy, accelerating growth and eradicating poverty.

“Pakistan has rectified all 27 conventions – a prerequisite for consideration of GSP+ status –; what is more important is that we have not done so for the sake of GSP+ but because our government believes that the conventions represent a framework which is perfectly in tune with the kind of democracy and country we want Pakistan to become. Good governance and human rights are our top priorities alongside curbing corruption, bringing fiscal discipline, widening the tax base, and adoption of measures to help the poor in our society”, an excerpt from the letter says.

Sawar told the MEPs that his country had suffered more than most in the war on terror with casualties of over 50,000 civilians, besides martyrdom of army and security personnel – a huge price to help keep our inter-connected world safe.

“The loss worth billion of dollars that we suffered has skewed our economy. That is why we believe that the economic uplift that we anticipate with GSP+ status would help Pakistan overcome some of the challenges we are confronted with”, Sarwar stated in his written communication.

He has also highlighted that Pakistan’s inclusion in GSP+ would also help rebalance South Asian market share in the EU, besides having a positive effect on the local industry in EU which rely on Pakistani products in their operations.

Narrating some facts about Pak-EU relations, which have grown significantly over the period of last few years, the governor recalled that Pakistan was the recipient of EU trade concessions between 2002-2005, but sadly enough it was when the country had a military dictator as President.

“I’m sure that MEPs and the EU can see the irony. If at a time when Pakistan is on the verge of this historic concretising of its democratic foundations, it was to be denied GSP+ status yet previously having been granted it during years of military rule”, he affirmed.