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Pakistan Ups its Game, Looking for GSP Status

Pakistan will likely be granted European Generalized System of Preference (GSP) Plus status beginning in Jan. 2014, which would allow the country greater access to trade with EU markets.

After a meeting with Farooq Iftikhar, president of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Danish Ambassador to Pakistan Jesper Moller Sorensen, said he appreciates the business opportunities in Pakistan. He added that its market has enormous potential, low labor costs, a rising middle class and with a large portion of the population being on the younger side, Pakistan is an attractive destination for investment, LCCI reported.

“Our goal is to increase Danish exports of goods to Pakistan by 40 percent over the next three years,” he said.

In CY 2012, the total Danish export of goods to Pakistan was $93 million, the Pak Tribune reported. Pakistan’s total export of goods to Denmark in CY 2012 was $95 million, close to 40 percent of which was related to the textile industry.

Sorensen said the Embassy of Denmark in Islamabad will open a commercial section later this year in order to better assist Danish companies on the Pakistani market. Denmark will extend full support to Pakistan if a Denmark-specific export strategy is put in place by the Pakistani government.

In light of Pakistan’s recent negative publicity over safety concerns, Sorensen stressed the need for new mechanisms to improve the country’s perceptions and ensure foreign investors aren’t frightened off.

The new trade status would do well to boost Pakistan’s economy, but without sufficiently skilled workers–a major problem affecting the nation as the garment sector faces a 90 percent shortage of skilled manpower–Pakistan may not be fully prepared to take advantage of it, Sajid Saleem Minhas, Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) chairman, told The Nation.

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PRGMEA joined The Punjab Skills Development Fund (PSDF) last week to host a workshop on “Skills Need Assessment for the Garments Sector'” to identify areas where skilled manpower is needed.

The Punjab government understands the garment sector’s potential to increase national exports and are therefore working to reduce the shortage of skilled workers.

As part of the effort, they’ve formed a committee led by Punjab government advisor, Dr. Ijaz Nabi and Chairman Planning and Development Board Punjab Irfan Elahi. Groups within this committee are working to assess the needs and requirements for various sectors and devise a policy for strengthening and improving the garment manufacturing and export sectors, The Nation reported.

PSDF is getting assistance from PRGMEA, Punjab Vocational Training Council, TEVTA and garment exporters to develop the policy and Guild UK, Edexcel UK and Turkish institutes will impart any required training, awarding certificates for course completion.

With these added measures, Pakistan could be on track to benefit fully from a new free trade status with Europe.

Iftikhar said in a statement that despite its challenges, Pakistan has great market potential and is a great prospect for foreign investment. He added that the country is strategically located, offers abundant raw materials and any investment made in Pakistan will find its way to neighboring countries, which covers a broad swath of Central Asia.