EU deal is a landmark by S Rehman

Source: The News, September 19, 2010

If some people are of the opinion that the success in breaking the protective cocoon of European Union has come by itself or without any consistent struggle, they are mistaken and unaware of the perseverance and intelligent moves of President Asif Ali Zardari and Gilani government functionaries who allocated all their capabilities to make this breakthrough.
Isn’t it a pleasant surprise for those opponents of President Zardari who had been trying their utmost to play down Zardari’s foreign visits especially his latest dash to the United Kingdom when he had a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron?
Now the time has come for reaping the benefits of that visit which was followed by a vigorous follow-up activity undertaken by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister and Commerce Secretary who accordingly embarked on a tour of Europe to carry out persuasive deliberations with three prominent member states of EU namely Portugal, Poland and Spain.
These countries had throughout been having reservations towards the idea of bringing Pakistan into the European Union (EU) fold in terms of allowing it trade concessions. But the pursuance on the part of President Zardari did work and it worked well.
When the president met David Cameron, he reiterated his old principled stand that Pakistan’s present leadership believed in thriving with self-esteem and hence what was needed was trade, not aid.
The first fruit of that constant hammering came in the shape of solemn assurance from UK Premier Cameron that he would use his good offices to pave the way for Pakistan’s proper access into the EU market with the objective of enhancing Pakistan’s trade potential/volume, as repeatedly emphasized by Pakistan’s top leaders.
That, of course, is a big accomplishment at this juncture when Pakistan is striving relentlessly to come out of the prevalent crises in the wake of floods’ devastation and motivated terrorism.
This has rather been the desire of many previous Pakistani regimes, which, however, could not proceed practically on this track, let alone achieve success.
But different regimes and leaders had been handling it in different ways. The PPP-led government, however, took pains to continue with the mission without getting weary of it as evidenced from frequent visits of Pakistan’s top leaders and important functionaries for achieving results.
As for these visits, they did not remain confined to UK, Portugal, Poland and Spain.
As such, Pakistan’s foreign minister also paid visits to two other vocal member states of the European Union namely France and Italy with the same objective.
In the same connection our important functionaries also went to Belgium and had discussions with the EU Trade Commissioner and other influential leaders of the EU.
Following these moves and deliberations, Islamabad finally succeeded in getting the meeting on this main agenda rescheduled. Previously, it was scheduled to be held on October 10 next but making use of its international goodwill, Islamabad leadership was finally able to get it fixed early i.e on September 16.
The new arrangement will be worth around $390 million to Pakistan over a year.
According to the decision arrived at during the summit of this 27-states bloc that met in Brussels, Pakistan will receive an immediate and time-limited reduction in duties on key exports to the European Union. Our textile sector is going to be the major beneficiary.
The joint statement issued by the 27 leaders at the end of the summit, says: “The European Council underlines its firm commitment to grant exclusively to Pakistan increased market access to the EU through the immediate and time-limited reduction of duties on key imports.”
Quoting an EU diplomat, “There is a deal done. It includes a commitment to grant Pakistan access to the EU’s enhanced trade programme known as GSP +.”
All that owes to the present government’s sagacious handling of the situation. Certainly, the situation was handled with diplomatic finesse, which is somewhat reminiscent of first-class diplomacy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed and Benazir Bhutto Shaheed.
This is not a petty success at all particularly because it has come at such an hour when some negative elements were bent upon maligning us and tarnishing our image through cunning machinations and scheming.
This is rather a multi-faceted achievement. It is not only economic in nature, it is also going to impact positively on the diplomatic scene.
For sure, it augurs well for Islamabad in the sphere of international relations, as it is indicative of tremendous goodwill that Pakistan of today has been able to build up in the comity of nations despite many of the leading states of the world expressing skepticism, at times, about Pakistan’s ‘actual role’ in ‘lessening or heightening’ terrorism.
The EU market success has laid the foundation of a better economy through better international trade (not aid) and it also marks Pakistan’s diplomatic victory over West’s skepticism.
The legacy that PPP-led government is trying to build up through these endeavours would definitely benefit us multifariously.