Trade-linked aid to Pakistan tops Europe talks

Europe is likely to offer trade-linked aid to help Pakistan battle flood devastation at an EU summit next week, diplomatic sources said Saturday.

Hosting a two-day informal parley of foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc, EU diplomatic supremo Catherine Ashton said Pakistan needed wide support — ranging through aid, institution-building, anti-terror assistance, reconstruction and trade.

“Everyone agrees we have to think comprehensively,” Ashton said.
“If we want to stabilise Pakistan, so that it doesn’t degenerate into
extremism and fundamentalism, we have to address the economic consequences of this natural catastrophe,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

EU leaders will have three options to ease Pakistani goods into Europe –offering duty-free access on some goods, deciding a unilateral waiver with WTO agreement, or lowering Most Favoured Nation tariff on some products.

Most EU nations favoured a waiver for a limited list of products, diplomatic sources said.

The European Commission, which polices EU trade matters, asked ministers to consider ditching tariff barriers on 13 types of textile product, in an effort to kick-start an economic fightback.

“We cannot stand on the sidelines,” said Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere, after the issue of “how we’ll do it” was passed up from trade to foreign ministers.