EU bans Pakistan sea food exports

Managing Director Karachi Fish Harbour Authority Abdul Ghani Jokhio has accused the European Union (EU) of continuing the ban on Pakistan’s fish exports for global political reasons.

He inexplicably extrapolated that the ban is in lieu of Nato’s military failure in Afghanistan against the Taliban rather than any hygiene concerns with respect to our seafood exports.

Few other than the affected would endorse such frivolous logic.

The European Union is the only trade bloc that not only supported Pakistan’s demands for trade rather than aid, but also gave a concrete proposal in this regard.

In response to Pakistan’s 2010 devastating floods, the EU offered a one-time facility envisaging waiver of customs duties for 75 items (mostly textile-related) for two years from Pakistan.

Opposition by other countries, including India and Bangladesh under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules led to the delay in the implementation of this waiver.

And while Pakistan did initiate a dialogue with the countries opposed to this concession, the EU also proactively assured these countries that their exports to the EU bloc would not be compromised as a consequence of the concession to Pakistan.

The estimated surge in our exports for the two years that the waiver is in place is estimated at almost 900 million euros or approximately 27 percent of total EU imports from Pakistan.

It is a measure of the success of both the Pakistani and EU officials that on the first of February 2012, the WTO Council for Trade in Goods approved the waiver.

The EU is a significant trading partner for Pakistan and accounts for 20% of Pakistan’s external trade with Pakistani exports to the EU amounting to euro 3.4 billion, (mainly textiles and leather products) and EU exports to Pakistan amounting to euro 3.8 billion (mainly mechanical and electrical equipment, and chemical and pharmaceutical products).

Seafood trade is subjected to extremely high hygiene standards the world over for the simple reason that its meat spoils easily that can lead to severe health issues.

And it is a fact that hygiene requirements for Western countries are a lot more stringent than in the developing world.

In this instance to refuse to accept concerns over our hygiene standards and instead blame global politics is hardly likely to instil any confidence amongst our potential EU seafood buyers or indeed convince the relevant government department in Pakistan that it should take up the case bilaterally at a higher forum.

And in this context, it is relevant to note that Jokhio did acknowledge that the six-year ban on our seafood exports to the EU would not have been as long if the European Union’s queries had been aptly and promptly responded to.

Hussain Abedi, a Pakistani seafood exporter blamed the Marine Fisheries Department for not properly undertaking the ban issue with the EU and pointed out that “some documentation is needed to prove that the country’s seafood exports are based on what the EU had demanded of the Pakistani government in 2007.”

Pakistan’s fish and fish preparation exports increased by 15.27 percent during the first seven months of the current year over the corresponding period of last year.
Thus fish exports estimated at $175.011 million were recorded during July-January (2011-12) against exports of $151.833 million in the corresponding period of the preceding year.

In short, there is potential to enhance our exports of seafood and all the relevant stakeholders must work together towards resolving issues.