EU Market Access, Not Aid

Commentary | October 14, 2010

Writing for the News, EWI Director Ikram Sehgal argues that Pakistan’s officials need to make a stronger case for why the country needs better market access to the West. The concern in Europe is that textile imports from Pakistan will reduce the number of jobs held by citizens of the EU in the textile industry.

“The incongruity of this protest can only be gauged from the available statistics,” states Sehgal.

Sehgal follows this statement with statistics and examples of European imports from China, India and Pakistan.  Pakistan’s exports of 3.32 billion Euros to Europe in 2009 amounted to an increase of 1.26 billion Euros from 2005, constituting a mere 0.27 percent of Europe’s overall imports, and only 1.4 percent of the EU’s textile imports. 

“Pakistan’s exports are all commodity items for budget conscious customers which do not compete with the high end fashion items manufactured in Europe,” explains Sehgal.  With Pakistan’s main export of cotton, commodity comparison between Pakistan and Europe is akin to comparing apples and oranges – in other words, they are not comparable.

Sehgal continues by explaining the recent disasters in Pakistan such as the flood and the ongoing war, both of which have robbed the country of its already limited resources: “we cannot engage the hearts and minds of the populace effectively without the economic means to do so,” Sehgal assesses. 

The main concern from the Pakistani perspective is the issue of market access, which has recently improved.  Sehgal concludes: “The force-multiplier effect and optimism created by even the modest export figure increase sanctioned by EU will make a difference in alleviating the misery/disenchantment of the common man of Pakistan. The goodwill generated for the EU as well as the long-term benefits of stability in the region are tremendous.”

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