EU to waive tariffs to help Pakistan

The European Union declared Thursday it will temporarily waive World Trade Organization tariffs on key Pakistani imports to help boost the flood-devastated country’s economy.

The 27-nation bloc agreed at a summit in Brussels to grant Pakistan

immediate, although temporary, import duty relief both as a humanitarian gesture.

“The severity of this crisis demands an immediate and substantial response,” the EU said in a declaration. “A stable, democratic and prosperous Pakistan is key to addressing global issues such as counterterrorism, nonproliferation or counter-narcotics.”

The EU already has committed millions of euros in aid to help Pakistan recover from the devastation. It also wanted to craft a long-term strategy to help the country get its economy back on track.

“There is a humanitarian crisis in Pakistan, there are also clear and very worrying concerns about what can happen in Pakistan with all that is going on, and all the dangers that everyone is aware of,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters.

The decision on Pakistan was a success story at a summit blighted by infighting over France’s much-criticized expulsions of Gypsies.

“I believe this was a test for the European Union to make sure that when we talk about our external relations we can show we can deliver results and not just rhetoric,” Cameron told reporters.

The final details of which exports will be covered and how long the waiver will last will be worked out by the European Commission by October, he said.

Diplomats have said the move could be worth between ¤230-¤300 million ($290-$380 million) a year for Pakistan.

Similar waivers were adopted to help countries recover after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake that flattened large swaths of Haiti in January.

The EU also agreed to look at granting Pakistan a favored trading status with the EU after 2014, Cameron said.