EU Eyes Trade Aid for Pakistan's Rehabilitation

A family flees its home in flooded Punjab, Pakistan. Photo by: ECHO/Malini Morzaria

The European Union is considering offering trade-related aid to support post-flood recovery in Pakistan at an EU summit this week, according to diplomatic sources.

In an informal parley of EU foreign ministers over the weekend, Catherine Ashton, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief, said Pakistan needs wide support including aid, institution building, anti-terror assistance, reconstruction and trade, Agence France-Presse reports.

“Everyone agrees we have to think comprehensively,” Ashton said.

EU leaders will have three options to help ease the entry of Pakistani goods into European markets: offering  duty-free access on certain products, deciding a unilateral waiver through a World Trade Organization agreement, or lowering certain tariffs on some goods.

Diplomatic sources said most EU nations support a waiver for a limited number of products. The European Commission asked ministers to consider removing trade barriers on 13 types of textile products.

“It is in the vital strategic interest of the European Union to help Pakistan in the long term with trade,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague. “I hope there will be agreement on it” at the Sept. 16 summit, he added.

Aid challenges

Aid agency Oxfam said funds for Pakistani flood victims are dwindling despite increasing needs.

“If we are to avert the spread of waterborne disease, then clean water, sanitation and medical supplies are vital,” said Neva Khan, head of Oxfam in Pakistan. “It is shameful that these essentials have attracted such paltry levels of donor funding.”

Oxfam estimated that some 57 percent of funding needed for health and 30 percent for water and sanitation have been received, according to a media release by Charities Aid Foundation.

Meanwhile, the immediate availability of food for flood victims is hampered by a 15 percent to 20 percent price hike, said Wolfgang Herbinger, the top official of the World Food Program in Pakistan. A report by WFP, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation notes that 48.6 percent of the country’s population are food-insecure, The Express Tribune reports.

More aid pledges

The Canadian government has extended its pledge to match all private donations to registered charities supporting Pakistani flood aid efforts, The Vancouver Sun reports.

Conservative House leader John Baird said the Sept. 12 deadline would be extended to Oct. 2.

“The terrible effects of the flooding are immediate, medium, and longer term,” said Baird. “When we established this fund, we knew that our response would need to address all stages of this crisis and help improve prospects for the people of Pakistan as they recover from this humanitarian disaster.”

The Japan International Cooperation Agency was due to dispatch a second medical team to assist flood victims in Pakistan on Sept. 12, while France was scheduled to send humanitarian supplies including medicines, tarpaulins and water purification stations last week.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, discussed flood relief efforts with Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani in a telephone call, the Press Trust of India reports.

“While we continue our immediate flood relief, Vice President Biden highlighted that we are also pursuing a full-fledged diplomatic effort to encourage additional international resources to help Pakistan rebuild,” the White House said in a statement.

Transparency assurance

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has assured the World Bank of transparent distribution of aid among flood victims. Zardari said everyone would have access to information on the source, quantity and distribution of aid for flood victims through the Internet.

Zardari also called for more World Bank assistance for energy and public-private partnership projects, Dawn.com reports.

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.